‘Pacific Rim’ sequel charms with intent despite low quality

Photo caption:“Pacific Rim Uprising,” Guillermo del Toro’s sci-fi fantasy sequel to “Pacific Rim,” stars John Boyega, Jing Tian, Scott Eastwood, Rinko Kikuchi and Ivanna Sakhno (pictured above). / Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

This is not a good movie. The original “Pacific Rim” needed a sequel. But did it need a corporate-produced sequel? Did it need a sequel that was stripped of its director, Guillermo del Toro? No, no it did not. This movie didn’t need to be made, and it shouldn’t have been made unless del Toro and company were all onboard for a sequel every bit as passionate as the first movie.

Yet, despite all of this, I came away somewhat charmed by this film. Even as every fiber of my being has a complaint about it, “Pacific Rim Uprising” represents something that I was very surprised by: a positive display of diversity and cooperation that has been sorely lacking from big-budget films, such as “Star Wars” or those in the Marvel franchise.

This still isn’t a good movie, though. The film presents a lot of bizarre content, especially within the first half. It’s honestly astounding how many misfires occur before the halfway mark is even close: it has a narrative exposition that fails at comedy, an anticlimactic chase scene and some terrible performances from child actors. While I wouldn’t call these performances the absolute worst ones I’ve ever seen from children, they were still incredibly stiff. John Boyega does his best to hold the banter up, but, while he occasionally succeeds, more often than not the movie plunges in quality.

There are also some narrative issues here. I don’t want to go into these too much because they are spoilers, so I’ll just say that in connecting this movie with its predecessor, some very questionable choices were made. In comparison to the original movie, “Pacific Rim Uprising” fumbles somewhat in its portrayal of characters’ relationships. Not everything in the last movie was perfect, but the relation between Idris Elba’s and Rinko Kikuchi’s characters was very heartfelt, and it set a bar that the sequel just can’t reach. I also really loved the relationship between Charlie Hunnam’s character and Kikuchi’s in the last film. In a genre so saturated with forced romances, the original movie’s focus on an emotional dependency between two characters without ever falling back on sex is really a feat of genius on del Toro’s part.

However, getting into the positives of the sequel, I’m thankful that it didn’t attempt anything too serious with the relationships between characters. There is one relationship that could have gotten super problematic super fast, but the movie cleverly backed away from this pitfall in a way that left me surprised. It was so earnest in its attempt that I left feeling glad I had witnessed what just happened, regardless of the quality.

That’s why I like this movie, despite its caveats. It is just saturated with this sense of desire to do justice for the characters in this story—and I don’t just mean the male protagonist either. The writing staff of “Pacific Rim Uprising” was fairly inclusive, depicting a range of voices throughout.

It isn’t perfect, but this movie upended racial stereotypes and genre expectations in a way that feels fitting for a movie series originally created by del Toro. “Pacific Rim Uprising” brings up ideas of problematic representation for its fictional races—mechs and aliens—and then tosses those same ideas out the window. Recognizing that it’s absurd to segregate one another when it comes to mechs and aliens, this film might just have metaphorical resonance that can be applied to our world.

There’s one aspect that this movie could never mess up for a viewer like myself: mech fights. The first installment delivered immensely at showing the power of these colossal fights happening on screen, and while the sequel lacks some of the weight that the first movie had, it more than makes up for it by the sheer absurdity of what’s on display.

Some of these robots make no sense whatsoever. If collateral damage is a priority for the defenders of humanity, why are there robots with maces, whips, and artillery machine guns? Why are hackable robots even considered for use? Questions like these stack up, yet the movie casually discards them, expecting blind acceptance from audiences.

And the ending––oh my, the ending. The way this movie dispatches its final baddie was so unbelievably stupid yet a treat to witness. My dog that barks at its own reflection wouldn’t hesitate to call this finishing touch a complete loss of reason.

Despite every mistake, every misfire of a line and every awkward child, I felt that there was an overwhelming sense of love and sincerity driving the movie. The filmmakers here were probably just random names attached to the script at one point, but they managed to come together and give it their all. This is not a good movie. I had a blast watching it.

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