It’s being set up to be one of the year’s first attempts at cracking the sci-fi community at the box office.
And, indeed the hype is getting oh-so real for Pacific Rim: Uprising, the follow up to Guillermo Del Toro’s 2013 Kaiju master-piece, as its March release date creeps closer and closer.
The final trailer for the film just dropped with leading man John Boyega stepping firmly into the shoes of Idris Elba and Charlie Hunnam as the main man to have in a Jaeger.
Sneak-peeks so far have showed that the sequel’s director Steven S. DeKnight has brought more of the Gundam-style towering mobile suits to play, as well as bringing back the destructive and alien Kaiju’s first dreamed up by Del Toro.
The film’s most recent trailer bills this instalment as a battle for survival – so nothing new there so far – and indeed for the first half of the two minute and 20 second long trailer everything is suitably dark and downcast.
We get our first look at Jake Pentecost – son of the legendary Fieldmarshal Stacker Pentecost – washed up in jail, and disillusioned with the way his life is going; we’re treated to snapshots of pool parties by Kaiju bones and the suitably decent line: ‘You’ve said a lot of things, but I’m not a hero like he was.’
There’s an introduction to Cailee Spaeny’s wunderkind pilot, and Scott Eastwood filling in the shoes of the mentoring Herc Hansen (played by Max Martini) as Nate Lambert.
Burn Goham and Charlie Day’s PHD comedy double-act also make a welcome return, and there’s even the exciting tease of some Jaegers in the ‘wrong hands’.
So far, so good.
Everything good that you feel about Pacific Rim Uprising stops one minute and 10 seconds in when the futuristic soundtrack slips into TuPac’s Till I Die and there’s a shot of choppers hovering in the sunset – it conjures up unpleasant memories of Suicide Squad.
What quickly follows is a mishmash of scenes that show fights between Jaegers and Kiajus that look like something straight out of Power Rangers, and a mix of action scenes and by-the-book one-liners that could have been lifted from a Fast and Furious film.
That, and for some inexplicable reason a bunch of (what look to be) pre-teens are seemingly billed as the Earth’s only saviours at the end.
It makes all the hopes and dreams that fans of Del Toro’s original had turn to Kaiju poop in a heartbeat.
Why? It’s simple. Everything that Del Toro brought to the script (which he helped to write with Travis Beacham) seems to have been stomped on and/or ignored wholesale by DeKnight and the writing team behind the follow-up.
What made the original Pacific Rim so fantastic to look at, and exciting to watch, is that it played out more like an anime than anything else.
Del Toro weaved his magic on the Kaijus and Jaege’s (we all know he’s got history making the fantastical…well, fantastic), but he also brought a sense of desperation, drama and claustrophobia to the film.
That scene where Mori’s childhood self is left stranded in the streets alone as a Kaiju attack happens, those shots of Raleigh working on the wall, and the last line of defence, The Shatterdome. It all fostered a sense that humanity was on its way out, and that the Jaegers and their pilots were on their last legs.
In essence things were looking pretty bleak, and you could feel that.
What’s more is that the actual Jaegers themselves, while suitably high-tech and sci-fi were only machines. Their mobility is severely limited, and while human characteristics are evident in them, the movements and weapons were enough that you could believe it was metal.
DeKnight and his teams seem to have done away with both the atmosphere Del Toro fostered in the original and embraced the Michael Bay way of thinking – which basically says robots can do anything I want them to do as long as I put it in the script.
The trailer sees them flying about with laser powered melee weaponry, transforming and rolling around streets, as well as clobbering each other in a Gandalf and Balrog-esque fall.
Gone also is the dark and gloomy atmosphere that Del Toro fostered all the way through his first film. The sun is glimpsed at times, but mostly the majority of the film takes place at night, indoors or in a gloomy colour palette of cold hues and greys.
While it’s safe to say that giving fans more of what they want, you can’t expect people to like it when you depart wholeheartedly and shamelessly chase the same middle line formula of ‘Bigger, better, more explosions, and more of everything’ that so many other franchises do.
In essence it looks exactly like most fans feared would happen. With Del Toro and Beacham having departed a new team has been drafted in, who essentially have little credibility behind the – all except Nowlin.
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It’s worth nothing that DeKnight’s biggest projects to date are directing odd episodes for Daredevil, Angel, and Smallville – likewise that’s where his writing credits lie as well.
The real problem itself looks to be that while the film is set in the same universe and timeline as the original Pacific Rim the film is essentially (by the looks of it) a huge departure from what Del Toro and Beacham crafted.
There’s always hope left, as trailers are obviously just one portal into a snapshot of a film, but on the whole it feels as though the film has fallen prey to old-school Hollywood box office tropes that actually strip a film of anything complex.
If the film is just an extension of the trailer then it’s quite possible that Pacific Rim Uprising will have to be consigned to the curse of the sequel, something great action franchises know all about; remember Die Hard 2?
I loved the first Pacific Rim. I thought it was a brilliant fusion of anime mechs, outrageous Kaijus, and a breath of fresh air in the sci-fi action genre.
Not only was it visually stunning, but it had a cast and script that could hold its own comfortably – if it was slightly outrageous at times.
Sadly, I’m left fearing despite having some strong acting talent and a reasonably safe starting block for its story, Pacific Rim Uprising will be just another waste of hours and money when it comes to my life.
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