Kevin: Tough Guy Digest is back after a Spring Break hiatus that went on longer than we expected, mainly because we all have a lot of shit going on right now, so back off! Sorry that was uncalled for, we’re just a little peeved due to the fact that “Hurricane Heist” blew into and out of theaters before we had a chance to see it, but we will catch up to it as soon as we can, even if we have to pay $20 to watch it on a hotel PPV next month. In the meantime we sent CJ to report back on this week’s latest sequel/reboot no one asked for (hey “Tomb Raider”!): “Pacific Rim Uprising.”
I would have gone with him, but I have been in the midst of a big move, plus I was not a huge fan of the original. I liked it okay enough, but while cool concept + visionary director should have equaled genre classic, it just didn’t totally come together for me. However, CJ was a big fan, which is not surprising since he is a sucker for anything that involves giant robots. So as our resident robotologist, let’s find out his thoughts about “Pacific Rim Uprising”:
Kevin: I know you really enjoyed the original “Pacific Rim,” so is the fact that Guillermo del Toro is not piloting this installment a major loss, or are there areas in which the sequel actually improves upon the original?
CJ: I’m pretty sure del Toro came up with the idea for “Pacific Rim” while him and his kids played with Transformers and “Jurassic Park” toys, and one of the kids threw them all together into a pile. At that point del Toro caught himself staring at it for a few minutes, and a few years later “Pacific Rim” was born.
Cut to 2017, and someone passes director Steven S. DeKnight a PB&J sandwich, but he dropped it, the dog ran over and ate most of it, and thus “Pacific Rim Uprising” came out this weekend.
Kevin: Why is it called “Pacific Rim Uprising” and not “Pacific Rim: Uprising”? Also, is there an actual uprising in the film, or could it have been called “Pacific Rim: Resurrection/Resurgence/Revolution,” or any other generic subtitle that’s used for sequels nowadays?
CJ: It should have been called “Pacific Rim: Bilabial Trill.” There’s no mincing words, this movie was terrible. The basic plot revolves around John Boyega as Jake Pentecost, the son of Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), the hero who helped stop the first war against the Kaiju in the original. Now the fact that our naming conventions went from Stacker to Jake is really all you need to know about how the sequel goes. However, as you noted below, since Jake is never even mentioned in the original, apparently they decided that what the sequel needed was two acts establishing that, no guys, Jake was totally real, always a major family member. Maybe it should have been titled “Pacific Rim: You Need to Wait 90 Minutes.”
Kevin: The original was the rare blockbuster that had a definitive conclusion rather than leaving it open-ended for a sequel, with the heroes seemingly stopping the Kaiju threat for good after closing the portal at the bottom of the ocean. Does the sequel have a clever and interesting explanation for why the Kaiju are back? Or, to paraphrase Owen Wilson from “Royal Tenenbaums”: “Everyone knows they closed the portal at the end of ‘Pacific Rim,’ but what this sequel presupposes is … maybe they didn’t?”
CJ: Nope, it’s closed. Spoilers ahead, but I will explain why the Jaegers are needed once more. Fair warning, everything I say actually happened in this film:
The UN or World Council or some other group, I don’t know, anyways these assholes have decided they want to buy drone-based Jaegers, because in their world no one ever saw a movie about the dangers of AI. Anyways, as they are about to go to vote on whether to buy all these drones (rendering the current Jaeger program redundant) a rogue drone Jaeger showed up and lays waste to the city. This somehow leads the team to go to Russia, where they find the rogue drone and destroy it, after which they discover the drone is being powered by a Kaiju brain. In fact, ALL the drones are powered by individual Kaiju brains, and have now become sentient and are in the Pacific Rim trying to re-open the portal.
But CJ, you might ask, if the portal was closed, how are there live Kaiju brains still around, and how have they set up a sophisticated robot assembly line manufacturing complex, complete with software upgrade and a main neural network in the heart of a major tech company? So between the first movie and the second, the Kaiju still can’t get to Earth, but have somehow figured out next-level corporate takeover? How is that possible?
Remember how Charlie Day “drifted” with a Kaiju brain in the original? Well, turns out this resulted in a romantic relationship, and Charlie has taken the brain, named it Alice, and moved it into the bedroom in his apartment. He treats it as his wife, even drifting to make sweet, gentle love to it. We know this because this scene takes place in the movie, like they actually filmed it and decided to keep it in the movie rather than burning it in a dumpster. As part of the multiple drifts, the Kaiju leaders (Precursors) have gotten a hold of Charlie’s brain and now control him. As a result, they make him get a job with the new Jaeger company and have him write code into the Jaegers so he can control them when the time is right. This still doesn’t explain where he gets the brains from, but, pff, details, amiright?
So yeah, this was written into a Hollywood movie, and multiple rounds of people went “looks good!”
Kevin: Hold up CJ, you mean to tell me that a major blockbuster franchise now rests on the shoulders of Charlie Day? By the way, the original “Pacific Rim” came out five years ago. Do we at least get a “previously on” montage to get us up to speed on this?
CJ: Not so much a “previously on” montage as much as Boyega going, “So here’s what happened when the Kaiju attacked,” and you’re sitting there thinking, “Yeah, I know, I saw the first one, that’s why I’m here. Wait are we just gonna see the first one again? Cause I’m actually fine with that.”
Kevin: Speaking of, I guess Jake was in boarding school or something the whole time in the original since his existence never came up even when his dad was about to sacrifice himself. Do we agree that that the whole “let’s establish continuity by making the hero the son of a well-liked previous character” is one of the lazier sequel tropes out there? Or to put it another way, if the “Independence Day” sequel did it, maybe you should try a little harder.
CJ: They explain him away by saying he washed out of Jaeger training school and was sent away. Then one year later the first “Pacific Rim” happens, so I guess Stacker didn’t have time to mention his son, despite everyone else talking about what they had to fight for, like his own adopted daughter, or the actual father-son team that pilots one of the Jaegers. Not even a dinner scene where he could go “You and your boy remind me of my son and I, but that story is for another day.”
Kevin: Is John Boyega an upgrade from Charlie Hunnam? Or to put it more accurately, how much is John Boyega an upgrade from Charlie Hunnam? Although it’s not like it would be too hard to step into Hunnam’s big white “Sons of Anarchy” sneakers in terms of talent or charisma. For instance, remember in the original how he had his own Iceman-type nemesis in the form of a blonde Australian? Was I the only one who had trouble telling them apart, even when they were in the same scene, and sometimes the same shot?
CJ: Boyega is pretty good in this and delivers a couple one-liners that got legitimate laughs. Between this and “Star Wars,” Boyega actually has the potential to be a charming star if he picks the right movies going forward. He’s also been lucky to have some solid co-stars in the “Star Wars” movies, and it always helps to work with a solid cast that helps lift everyone up. Yup, always good to have a good supporting cast.
Kevin: Could that be a veiled swipe at the fact that Scott Eastwood is in this? Between “Suicide Squad” and “Fate of the Furious,” is this another instance of a casting director going, “We’ve got a supporting role that calls for a handsome guy who doesn’t need to do a lot of heavy lifting in the acting department, let’s get Clint’s kid, you know the one who wasn’t getting a lot of roles until he changed his name to Eastwood, even though that’s not his legal name on account of his mom being some stewardess that Clint pumped-and-dumped in the ‘80s.”
CJ: I truly believe a dog that can bark on command would have been an upgrade over Scott. Hell, not even on command, just a dog. Any dog. First dog you see, that one is a better actor than Scott Eastwood.
I am legitimately confused as to how bad of an actor Scott Eastwood is. Don’t get me wrong, he recites his lines accurately, but listening to him speak reminds of the Simpsons episode where Rainer Wolfcastle tried to learn his lines for the “Radioactive Man” movie.
Kevin: Also, the original established the concept of “drifting,” whereby two Jaeger pilots become one by mentally connecting to the other person’s deep-seated thoughts and emotions. Is that even possible with Scott Eastwood?
CJ: When people drift you get a few snapshots of their lives. When Eastwood drifted I don’t actually remember anything happening. If I had to guess though, what he would see is just be that same dog from before licking its nuts.
Kevin: The original became one of the first Hollywood blockbusters to underperform here in the states but still get a sequel after over-performing in China. So does that mean we get a big climactic set piece in Shanghai, or does a Chinese pop star make an inexplicable cameo?
CJ: Yes, several big Chinese stars are in this, and the climax takes place on Mt. Fuji. Now I know that’s Japan, but I’m pretty sure the screenwriters assumed it was all the same. Oh also, there’s a whole secondary story about a teenager who built her own Jaeger and no one questions how she was able to move incredibly heavy metal pieces on her own.
Kevin: Apparently the character of Mako Mori returns in this, so do we find out why Hunnam is nowhere to be found? Died during piloting accident (as in, yes, “Independence Day: Resurgence”), or perhaps autoerotic asphyxiation?
CJ: Nope! Which is weird because they have a hallway with memorials for those who died in the Kaiju war, and you think they’d just add a line about Charlie advancing to general, or retiring to spend the rest of his life getting his knob polished because he’s a hero. But nope, he exists in this as much as Boyega existed in the first one.
Kevin: What about Ron Perlman, does his character make a return?
CJ: Again, no. Steven S. DeKnight basically wrote a list down of everything that people enjoyed from the first movie and said “won’t be needing this!” before throwing it in the trash. A quick look at Mr. DeKnight’s IMDB shows that he previously directed seven television episodes, so, you know, giving him $150+ million was the right call.
Kevin: The big complaint about the original was that the battles all happened at night and in the rain. How are the ones here?
CJ: All fights are in the day. Well, by all fights I mean one fight. It should be noted the Kaiju don’t show up until the third act, meaning you’re REALLY bored for the vast majority of this movie. But it’s in the day and it actually made me miss the night fights when the Kaiju were actually fairly intimidating and scary. During this day fight you’re kinda just like, “They look like ugly flowers with tails.”
Kevin: While del Toro just picked up an Oscar for Best Director, were you aware that Steven S. DeKnight (holy hell, I hate this guy just based on having to spell out his fucking name) was a “Creative Consultant” for two episodes of something called “Travel Boobs”? So does that give you some appreciation for what he contributed to the “Pacific Rim” universe?
Yes. I realize this now provides the right amount of context for my PB&J analogy to make sense.