The cancellation of both a blockbusting James Bond film and the South by Southwest festival circa March 2020 should give pause to all lovers of cinema; a viral outbreak takes no prisoners, and worse things are happening worldwide, to be sure, but the disruption of the cinematic calendar does not bode well for a business already wrestling with falling attendances; the disruptive antics of Netflix now seem somewhat unnecessary at a time when the whole year’s schedule seem under threat.
A tactical retreat to home entertainment is the only excuse for watching Pacific Rim: Uprising, a sequel which has seemed like in-essential viewing until now, and seems even less essential after last night’s viewing. 2013’s Pacific Rim was a real time-waster for Guillermo del Toro, a Transformers-style punch up between giant robots and aliens. It presumably made enough to make an off-brand sequel viable, and so Pacific Rim: Uprising offers a smaller scale conflict without zeroing in on anything particularly interesting.
Much as the dreadful Independence Day: Resurgence tried to establish continuity by having characters look lovingly at photographs of Will Smith, Stephen DeKnight’s film features John Boyega looking wistfully at photographs of Idris Elba, who presumably didn’t need to produce a letter from his parent or guardian to avoid this mess because his character died in the first film. Charlie Hunnam survived whatever happened in Pacific Rim, but presumably had such a roster of awful films to make that he couldn’t fit this sequel in. Instead, Boyega is paired with Amara (Cailee Spaeney), a sassy street-orphan mechanic, as they armour themselves in giant robot costumes to defend earth from aliens.
Apart from Charlie Day’s weird alien sex scene, the sole positive here is Scott Eastwood, son of Clint, and seemingly intent on mirroring the least successful era of his father’s career, the ‘bit part player in 1950’s sci-fi’ phase. Eastwood is actually a more-than-decent performer who seems to be contend with sixth banana roles in franchises like this, Suicide Squad or Fast and Furious. His appearance and delivery are striking, but when you’re playing support to John Boyega or Charlie Day, there’s not much a guy can do.
Pacific Rim: Uprising is a brightly-coloured and technically adept movie, and yet is fully deserving of the uncovered ‘NA-no award’ classification. The multi-cultural cast lack any actual characters, the action is expensive and yet bland and forgettable, and the whole project feels lifeless and drained of emotion. Cinema is still the place where exciting and original IP is created, and such lavish yet disposable efforts as Pacific Rim: Uprising may feel like fiddling while Rome burned if and when the going gets tough for cinema circa 2020.