Bro-Reviews: Incredibles 2

Not so incredible.

It’s been nearly a decade and a half since the release of “The Incredibles”, one of Pixar’s top films according to most. While some may argue the film told the story it wanted to tell and wrapped it up nicely, many craved for a sequel. It didn’t help that other Pixar films also got overdue sequels in the meantime, such as “Monsters University”, the prequel to “Monster’s Inc.”, “Finding Dory”, the sequel to “Finding Nemo”, and “Toy Story 3”, the third film in the beloved franchise and the one that started it all for Pixar. Brad Bird, the director of the first “Incredibles”, heard the fans’ cries for a sequel, and over a decade later, Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, Dash, Violet, Jack Jack, Edna Mode, and Frozone have all found their super suits for one last shot at superhero glory in “Incredibles 2.”

“Incredibles 2” picks up right where the first film ended, with the Parrs/ Incredibles doing battle with “The Underminer”. After a lengthy battle that causes damage to the city, the Parrs/ Incredibles and all other Supers are forced to adhere to their secret identities due to the authority’s concern over the level of damage caused. However, Bob/ Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson), Helen/ Elastigirl (voiced by Helen Hunt), and Lucius Best/ Frozone (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) are approached by Wisnton Deavor (voiced by Bob Odenkirk), the owner of telecommunications company and super hero fanatic who wants to bring supers back into the spotlight under a positive image. With Deavor suggesting Elastigirl should be the first to test his strategy and fight crime, Bob finds himself struggling with the day to day duties of being a father to his daughter Violet (voiced by Sarah Vowell), his son Dash (voiced by Huck Milner), and infant son Jack Jack (voiced by Eli Fucile), all the while a new nemesis arises, “The Screenslaver”.

At this point, there is very little in the way of slowing down the Pixar machine. Pixar’s animation continues to be the envy of all animation studios, as “Incredibles 2” features their trademark crisp, clear, and colorful animation. One of the more impressive feats in the animation in this film is just how busy and action packed it all is. For a studio that has built its reputation on family friendly vehicles, one could mistake “Incredibles 2” for an animated version of Marvel’s “Fantastic Four” property, as it’s definitely the most violent and action oriented Pixar film to date. This should please most audiences, and it’s worth noting just how high of a bar Pixar has set the animation standard with its latest money printer.

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Helen Hunt, Eli Fucile, and Craig T. Nelson in “Incredibles 2”.

The voice cast does an excellent job once again. Helen Hunt’s southern twang lends itself incredibly well to Elastigirl, as she is a standout in the film. Craig T. Nelson also gets mileage out of playing an exhausted father dealing with the pitfalls of being a stay at home parent, a welcome change from the traditional family roles we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in film. Veteran actors Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener, who voices Deavor’s technologically gifted sister, Evelyn, also do a fine job in their roles as a dynamic brother and sister business duo. Sarah Vowell’s Violet stands out of the Parr’s/ Incredible’s children as an angsty, moody teenager dealing with the perils of adolescence, but Jack Jack does get his due in the film as well.

Unfortunately, despite the near decade and a half wait for the film, “Incredibles 2” comes up disappointingly short. Whereas the first “Incredibles” told the story of a family finally coming together and accepting their differences (*along with a harrowing premonition of how fanatic/ fanboy culture will invade society), “Incredibles 2” feels like a sequel made to cash in, similar to Pixar’s weaker films such as the “Cars” follow-ups. The film definitely has the attitude of “bigger is better”, and while its action sequences are impressive and at first thrilling, they are far too long and lose steam after a while. A subplot involving other, less notable Supers goes nowhere, and the film’s twist is beyond predictable. Other than the film’s gender norms reversal, there isn’t anything that new or inventive here, a disappointingly hallow result considering Pixar’s impressive track record.

While “Incredibles 2” has its moments, the near decade and a half follow up to the first film fails to meet expectations. Despite a great voice cast and expert animation, “Incredibles 2” suffers from the dreaded disease known as “sequelitis”, as the filmmakers have forgone a gripping story in favor of prolonged action sequences that lose your attention they longer they drag on. Despite its titular name, “Incredibles 2” is far from incredible.

Rating: 2.5/4 stars. Pay low matinée price.

“Incredibles 2” stars Craig T. Nelson, Helen Hunt, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Eli Fucile, Samuel L. Jackson, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, and Brad Bird. It is in theaters now.

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Bro-Reviews: Hereditary

The horrors of family.

Every year there seems to be a darling film that arises from the festival circuit. 2018’s film festival darling was “Hereditary”, a midnight screening at the Sundance Film Festival that was met with rave reviews. Some have even gone as far to say it’s the scariest movie of all time, but does the film live up to the hype it received back in the winter? 

“Hereditary” sees Annie Graham (Toni Collette), a diorama artist, grieving from the loss of her mother, a private woman who seems to have been very popular within the community. After her death, Annie’s family, consisting of husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), son Peter (Alex Wolff) and daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro), begin to experience a series of strange behavioral changes and freak occurrences. This leads Annie to investigate the meaning behind these occurrences and their relation to her mother’s death. 

While maybe not “the scariest movie ever” as the hype would have you believe, “Hereditary” is the scariest movie to be released in quite some time. This is thanks in part due to Ari Aster, making his feature film directorial debut, and his ability to create tension throughout the film. The films use of quiet and the dark creates such tension, leaving you gripping your chair’s arms and at the edge of your seat. Tension also undoubtedly arises from the wide arrange of emotions the Graham family is experiencing, as their drama builds to the point of near explosion numerous times. The family’s off putting mannerisms also helps build a sense of uneasiness throughout, particularly Milly Shapiro, whose turn as Charlie is nothing short of captivating.

One other aspect of ”Hereditary” that perhaps has resonated with people most is the film’s imagery. The film boasts some of the creepiest, goriest imagery throughout, especially towards its hellish climax. Some may not find the film’s use of such imagery scary, but it undoubtedly will creep back into your mind as you attempt to sleep and will keep you awake all night. 

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Toni Collette in “Hereditary”.

Toni Collette gives an awards worthy turn as Annie, as her emotional depth is unlike one we’ve seen in art house horror. Gabriel Byrne gets plenty of mileage out of a seemingly thankless straight man role, Ann Dowd is a scene stealer as a friend of the family, and Alex Wol shows he’s a star in the making coming off the success of “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”. 

Like all horror movies, however, there will be those who have a bone to pick. The strange occurrences surrounding the family will leave plenty asking why don’t they notice something that is obviously peculiar. The film’s climax will have some asking why would you do that/ why wouldn’t they do this instead, but these are tropes that we should be accustomed to and prevent you from being in the moment. If you are able to be in the moment with these characters, you along with the characters of “Hereditary” will leave the theater scarred in fashion or another.

“Hereditary” is an art house horror masterpiece. Its use of familiar horror elements builds a sense of terrifying for the unknown that will leave you horrified and regretting your curiosity. It may not scare all and live up to the hype of “scariest movie ever”, but “Hereditary” will frighten you and leave you restlessly disturbed.

Rating: 3/4 stars. Pay full price.

“Hereditary” stars Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, and Ann Dowd. It is in theaters now.

Bro-Reviews: Deadpool 2

A funny, albeit not as fresh, worthy sequel.

Flashback to February of 2016, a time where comic book movies were in a strange place. Most of them took themselves too seriously, and Marvel had hit a bit of a lull with the disappointing results of “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” This was also a time when the team-up of DC Comic’s biggest heroes in “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice” seemed like a sure thing. Meanwhile, audiences were welcomed by “Deadpool”, a fourth-wall breaking, quipping, Spider-Man looking superhero that was the least beacon of hope for Ryan Reynold’s career. Most importantly, it was the first mainstream R-rated comic book movie in nearly a decade, with the prevailing wisdom that such movies couldn’t be made and be financial and critical successes. “Deadpool” more than bicked the trend, it destroyed it, as the film went on to becoming the highest grossing R-rated film of all time and was beloved by critics and audiences alike. Neatly two-and-a-half years later, the long awaited sequel, “Deadpool 2”, has finally arrived in theaters, hoping to capitalize on the successes of the first film.

“Deadpool 2” sees the return of Wade Wilson/ Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), who continues life being the “Merc with a Mouth” as a contract killing anti-hero. While assisting in a mission with X-Men allies Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), he encounters a troubled youth named Russell Collins/ Firefist (Julian Dennison), who is being hunted by futuristic time traveler Cable (Josh Brolin). With Cable after Russell due to his dooming visions of the future involving the fiery mutant, its up to Deadpool to stop Cable and rescue Russell in order to alter the youth’s future.

Needless to say, Ryan Reynolds remains born to play the “Merc with a Mouth”, as his fourth wall breaking, foul-mouthed quips, and self deprecating humor distinguishes the character as one of the most memorable in the Marvel cannon. Even though we know what to expect from the character, Reynolds is also able to give Wilson enough humanity to make us empathize with him, something that even the Marvel Studios films tend to overlook in their sequels. His willingness to also make fun of his previous comic book movie sins also retain hilarity, and pay big dividends in the film.

Josh Brolin’s Cable may not be nearly as complex as Thanos, but he’s still able to deliver a solid performance as the antagonistic and physically threatening nemesis. Zazie Beetz’s Domino is also a welcome addition, as her comedic timing and screen presence make her a strong female hero that many will find relatable, and her star should undoubtedly rise to new heights after her turn in the film.

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Ryan Reynolds in “Deadpool 2”.

The action is definitely bigger this time around and has more CGI effects behind them. While still not a mega-budgeted comic book film despite the success of the first film, “Deadpool 2” has thrilling action that although sometimes strains its budget, still flows nicely thanks to director David Leitch. Leitch previously helmed “John Wick” and “Atomic Blonde”, and his star continues to rise as one of the best action directors in the business thanks to his capable direction.

While the humor definitely reeks of repeating itself and isn’t nearly as fresh the second-go-around, “Deadpool 2” is still quite funny. Sure, it follows many of the same tropes of the same genre it expertly made fun of in the first film, but its willingness to level with the audience and call itself out on its own storytelling makes it one of the most honest film franchises around.

The unfortunate fate the film suffers like many of its counterparts is a case of sequelitis. Not only do the filmmakers believe bigger is better, but the story is merely an afterthought and derivative of previous movie sequels. This leads to the underdevelopment and downright unlikability of Julian Dennison‘s Russell/ Firefist, who comes across as a mutant with fiery powers doing a impersonation of Rebel Wilson, not the desired result when considering the character’s troubled backstory.

Deadpool 2 at times comes across as a cash grabbing sequel it critiques, but as one of the few films willing to take risks with its R-rated thrills and jokes and isn’t afraid to communicate with its audience, it works more often than not. It’s clear Reynolds and company have love for the character and desire to continue on as the near antithesis of mega-budgeted films, but it the sequel can’t help but follow the same tried and true path as other comic book movie sequels. “Deadpool 2” may have its flaws, but its still a rousing good laugh and thrill ride that suffers the unfortunate fate of having to live up to the expectations of its groundbreaking predecessor, a fate even Deadpool himself could quip endlessly to his audience about.

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars. Pay matinée price.

“Deadpool 2” stars Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, TJ Miller, Brianna Hildebrand, Stefan Kapičić, and Eddie Marsan. It is in theaters now.

Bro-Reviews: Avengers: Infinity War

The Marvel to end all marvels.

There are three guarantees in life: death, taxes, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe thrilling us again and again with each new release. Over the last decade, Marvel Studios has meticulously built their universe to the point where each new release wasn’t just an event to behold on the silver screen, but also a necessity to see. Marvel’s gamble seemed to have paid off large dividends with the release of their first team up film, 2012’s “The Avengers”, breaking numerous box office records at the time and came with the promise that bigger and better was coming. Even with the disappointment of 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, audiences have waited in anticipation for Marvel’s promise to bring every single Marvel Cinematic Universe character and film together in “Avengers: Infinity War”. Even though the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the envy of Hollywood to the point multiple studios have tried copying the formula but to less than stellar results (*see the DC comics extended universe and Universal’s Dark Universe*), could the mighty MCU crumble under their own ambition of assembling most, if not all, of its heroes into one feature length film?

“Avengers: Infinity War” takes place immediately after the events of “Thor: Ragnarok”, where Thanos (Josh Brolin) is on a quest to collect the six infinity stones in order to restore balance to time and space. With the threat of doom to mankind and the universe at stake, it’s up to the heroes of earth and the galaxy to team up and stop Thanos before he accomplishes his task and the cosmos are affected.

Marvel has once again aptly sown all of its unique, intricate pieces together into the class of super hero movies. Much credit must be given to the superstar directing team of the Russo brothers, Anthony and Joseph, who have yet to make a bad MCU film. It’s wonder how the directors of “You, Me, and Dupree” have made arguably two of the best MCU films, “Captain America: The Winter Solider” and “Captain America: Civil War”, and yet have somehow outdone themselves once again by tackling the most ambitious and perhaps even the most expensive films ever made.

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Chris Pratt and Robert Downey Jr. in “Avengers: Infinity War”.

The stakes couldn’t be higher in “Infinity War”, and the film definitely illuminates the catastrophic consequences. One of the benefits of building a universe for a decade is the audience is attached to all of the intertwining characters and story lines, so there’s a true sense of loss and despair when the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, Black Panther and company come face to face with impending doom. In regards to the film’s central villain, Josh Brolin’s Thanos may come with some trademark villainous background, but he’s easily one of if not the most complex and interesting villains the MCU has ever seen, and the exploration of his relationship with his adoptive daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana) packs an emotional punch. But the film is not bereft of laughs at all, as Marvel’s trademark timely humor is also ever present and as belly aching as ever, a welcome necessity considering the dire outcomes facing the heroes we have come to grow with and love.

As mentioned early, the Russo brothers are somehow able to make sure every seemingly single character we’ve come across in the MCU over the last decade gets their time to shine. This lends itself well to the action sequences, which are breathtaking to say the least. The constant shifting from set piece to set piece could come across as jarring for most, but it feels like a natural progression in “Infinity War”. There’s no doubt the film is exhausting at two and a half hours trying to include everyone, but it feels almost necessary for the film to be this way, and the film’s ending cliffhanger leaves audiences asking questions and yearning for answers.

“Avengers: Infinity War” is the Marvel to end all marvels. Its blending of every single major Marvel Cinematic Universe film and character into one cohesive story that serves as only a part one to what should be a tremendous book end to an incredible era nearly tops 2012’s “The Avengers” and 2008’s “The Dark Knight” as the best comic book films ever made. Nobody does it better than Marvel Studios, as they have once again changed the game in terms of not only the genre of film they make, but Hollywood blockbusters in general. Sure, by the end of it you may feel distraught, begging for answers, and perhaps even needing a nap, but “Avengers: Infinity War” isn’t just a marvel to see unfold on the silver screen, but a tremendous achievement that sets a new standard in blockbuster filmmaking.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars. Pay full price.

“Avengers: Infinity War” stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Lettia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Tom Hiddleson, Idris Elba, Karen Gillan, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Peter Dinklage, Carrie Coon, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Chris Pratt, and Josh Brolin. It is in theaters now.

Bro-Reviews: Rampage

Arcade button mashing is more thrilling.

Earlier this year, the video game movie genre stumbled with the arrival of Tomb Raider, an uneven, overlong slog that received mixed reviews at best and disappointed at the box office. Hollywood can’t seem to get the video game movie formula down. But their was hope, as such films never had as big a movie star as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Sure, he had starred in the film adaptation of the popular video game “Doom” back in 2005, but he wasn’t a bona fide star then like he is now. Throw in the high concept idea of the video game “Rampage”, a game in which you play as giant creatures going around the world destroying everything in your path, and you’ve got a recipe for a fun, and possibly even first good video game movie, right?

Rampage sees Dwayne Johnson as Davis Okoye, a primatologist who prefers the company of animals rather than humans. His favorite animal/ friend George (* motion captured by Jason Liles*), an albino gorilla he rescued, one night becomes infected by a pathogen that causes him to grown in size and increase aggression. After numerous cases of other animals being infected by the pathogen arise, Dr. Kate Caldwell (Noami Harris), a genetic engineer, teams up with Okoye to try and find a cure before the evil Energyne Corporation, led by Claire Wyden (Malin Åkerman) and her brother Brett (Jake Lacey), unleash even more hell upon the world with their experiment: Project Rampage.

Obviously, the glaring difference from the game and this adaptation is actual animals become infected with the pathogen in the film whereas it was humans being turned into giant animals in the game. This was probably a wise decision, and it lends itself well to the relationship between George and Johnson’s character. This is surprisingly one of the best aspects of the film, as while Johnson isn’t exactly known for his acting abilities, he’s able to convey his concern for his friend and vice versa. Of course, the giant albino gorilla, giant crocodile, and giant flying wolf wrecking havoc on the city draws parallels to the game, and at times is a delight to watch. It even lends itself well to an interesting horror element that makes the film one of the most violent PG-13 rated films ever released.

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Dwayne Johnson in Rampage.

Unfortunately, for a film that’s main selling point is monstrous destruction, Rampage is confoundedly mute during some of it. Sure, there’s plenty of destruction, but it doesn’t sound or feel like you get the full brunt of the carnage unfolding. The obliteration in the film never escalates to what should be disaster movie levels, and this could be due to the fact that the film struggles to balance tones during its slog of a second act. At times, the film takes itself seriously as if it’s trying to sell us that this could actually happen, and at others it stops to be meta and lighthearted, a combination that does not mix well. The second act is the main area where we see these jarring tonal shifts, and after countless male posturing confrontations, mistimed comedy, and failed attempts at developing characters, Rampage unforgivably becomes a bore.

While Dwayne Johnson may have the desire to be the next global action star, al la Arnold Schwarzenegger, he’s no Schwarzenegger. Jeffrey Dean Morgan should change his name to Jeffrey “Lean” Morgan, as his performance consists of the tendencies of his Negan character from The Walking Dead combined with an impersonation of Tommy Lee Jones from The Fugitive. The result is an awkward cowboy persona that feels like he’s in a completely different movie. Naomi Harris and Joe Manganiello are utterly wasted in the film and barely even resonate, while Malin Åkerman and Jake Lacy come across as Team Rocket from Pokémon and also feel out of place.

Rampage is yet another missed opportunity for the video game movie genre. A film boasting the talents of Dwayne Johnson, a blockbuster budget, and a high concept like the “Rampage” video game should have at the very least been fun. The result we get is an uneven disaster movie that hopes it can save itself by recklessly button mashing its way through its climax. You’d better off going to the arcade and doing that with the game the movie drew its inspiration from, at least you might get some thrills attempting to beat the high score.

Rating: 2 out of 4 stars. Rent it.

Rampage stars Dwayne Johnson, Naomi Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin  Åkerman, Jake Lacey, Marley Shelton, and Joe Manganiello. It is in theaters now.

Bro-Reviews: Isle of Dogs

Best in show.

Wes Anderson is in undoubtedly a true auteur by Hollywood standards. His quirky style and attention to visual detail has made him every hipster’s favorite filmmaker, but even mainstream audiences have finally started to catch on to his work. Anderson’s latest project has more mass appeal than all of his previous works thanks to its furry and friendly subject matter, Isle of Dogs, his second foray into the stop motion animation genre.

Isle of Dogs takes place in the not too distant dystopian future in Megasaki City, Japan, where an outbreak of dog flu and other various diseases has infected the dog population. The mayor of Megasaki City, Kobayashi (voiced by Kunichi Nomura), declares a state of emergency, and banishes all dogs to a nearby trash island, becoming the isle of dogs. However, a little boy named Atari (voiced by Koyu Rankin) flies to the island in the hopes of finding his dog, Spots (voiced by Liev Schreiber). Upon reaching the island a pack of dogs consisting of Chief (voiced by Bryan Cranston), Rex (voiced by Edward Norton), King (voiced by Bob Balaban), Boss (voiced by Bill Murray), and Duke (voiced by Jeff Goldblum) attempt to help Atari. Meanwhile, a young exchange student from Cincinnati, Ohio named Tracy Walker (voiced by Greta Gerwig) believes she is on the verge of uncovering a political conspiracy as to why the virus is seemingly incurable.

The animation in the film is nothing short of astounding. All of the dogs have their own unique characteristics that makes them who they are, and their scruffy, sickly look truly resembles that of abandoned dogs. The animation also lends itself well to the human characters and their environments, as Megasaki City illuminates Asian culture in ways not even live action films can accomplish. This marks yet another visually stunning entry in Wes Anderson’s career, and even perhaps his best yet.

Anderson’s trademark quirky humor is also ever present in the film. One may not have thought about it beforehand, but the ability for canines to communicate to us through just their looks and reactions fits perfectly with Anderson’s humor. The added fact the dogs can talk and communicate is also an added bonus, as their reactions and thoughts are conveyed in hilarious fashion throughout the film.

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Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Bryan Cranston, and Koyu Rankin in Isle of Dogs.

As far as the all star voice cast, Bryan Cranston and Edward Norton do a fantastic job as Chief and Rex, providing the film with a veteran presence. Bill Murray also gets his licks in as Boss, a liver spotted mutt for a Japanese baseball team that will have you rolling. Greta Gerwig as the exchange student Tracy Walker and Frances McDormand as an interpreter of the events unfolding also provide humanity and funny commentary to the film, proving the canines aren’t the only ones holding their own. The rest of the voice cast, rounded out by Jeff Goldblum, Liev Schriber, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, and Tilda Swindon also hit their marks and provide even more hilarity to the film.

The story itself is also quite timely considering the current state of of America. The current political happenings revolving around corruption and fear based rationale are explored in the film to tremendous results. The theory of basing political agendas on fear of “the other” or those unlike us is not only relevant, but also cautions us of a slippery slope that could become our reality should we continue our biased and paranoid ways.

Isle of Dogs is a delight. Not only does the film make good on its furry premise, but also provides timely commentary of our current political state. With an all star voice cast that is able to execute the director’s trademark style and humor and near perfect animation, Isle of Dogs is easily one of the year’s best films. Were it performing in the National Dog Show, Isle of Dogs would easily win best in show.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars. Pay full price.

Isle of Dogs stars Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Kunichi Nomura, Koyu Rankin, Ken Watanabe, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, Liev Schreiber, Tilda Swinton, Yoko Ono, and Scarlett Johansson. It is in limited release now, and expands nationwide April 13th.

 

Bro-Reviews: Pacific Rim: Uprising

Can we just get the Godzilla crossover already?

Back in 2013, visionary director Guillermo del Toro directed every anime fan’s ultimate live action dream featuring giant Gundam robots battling Godzilla-like creatures, Pacific Rim. The film received mostly positive reviews thanks to its visuals and delivering on its premise, and Idris Elba’s “cancelling the apocalypse” speech, while very akin to Bill Pullman’s “Independence Day” speech in Independence Day, remains iconic. The film wasn’t much of a financial success domestically, but fans craved a sequel. However, thanks to high box office receipts from our friends in China, a sequel titled Pacific Rim: Uprising has finally found its way into theaters.

Pacific Rim: Uprising takes place 10 years after the events of the first film/ “The Battle of the Breach”, where Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), son of “Battle of the Breach” hero General Stacker Pentecost, lives life as a scavenger for Jaeger parts after being kicked out of the Pan Pacific Defense Corps (PPDC). During one of his illegal dealings, he and young Jaeger enthusiast Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny) are arrested by the PPDC and are given an ultimatum by General Secretary of the PPDC Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), Jake’s half sister: either join the academy or go to jail. At the same time, Liwen Shao (Jing Tian) and Dr. Newt Geiszler (Charlie Day) have developed new drone Jaegers to take on the Kaiju should they ever appear again. However, when a rogue drone Jaeger wrecking havoc is discovered, it’s up to Jake and his crew of young recruits to solve the mystery before the possible return of the Kaiju.

For a movie whose essence is giant robots fighting monsters, the film has a bit too much plot and familiar thematic elements for its own good in an attempt to not be mindless entertainment like the Transformers film series. The redemption story for John Boyega’s character is fine, but the film focuses on it for the first third of the movie with awkward interactions with Scott Eastwood, who appears to be trying to hard to emulate his legendary father. On top of that, the scenes of Amara and the young recruits not getting along are contrived as well, making the first third of the movie a slog.

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Pacific Rim: Uprising

It also doesn’t help that the film is only produced by Guillermo del Toro, as while the first Pacific Rim had familiar elements to its set-up, in the hands of a talented director it can be forgiven. In the hands of first time film director Steven S. DeKnight, they come across as awkward and unnecessary, especially when the reason you bought a ticket was to see giant robots battle giant giant monsters. When you factor in the fact the ending to the first film leaves it in a place where the story didn’t need to continue, this sequel does reek of “be careful what you wish for” sentiment and falls into unneeded sequel status.

It’s not until the 2nd and 3rd acts you get what you paid the price of admission for. The battle sequences with the Jaegers and the Kaiju are still very epic and enthralling. This time you can also see a lot of the action since most of the sequences take place during the day, a welcome change after some complained about the dark, rainy settings of the battles in the first film. There’s also a killer twist in the film that is unexpectedly intriguing, and there’s no denying there’s life after Star Wars for John Boyega, as his charisma and leading man potential is on full display.

Pacific Rim: Uprising is a perfect example of why not every movie needs a sequel. Its first act renders the movie lifeless and is a chore to sit through, muting the main attraction of giant robots fighting giant sea monsters. While it does deliver enough of the elements that made the first film great, Pacific Rim: Uprising reminds us to be careful what we wish for, and that we need to get to the Godzilla crossover with Jaegers already.

Rating: 2 out of 4 Stars. Rent it.

Pacific Rim: Uprising stars John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, and Jing Tian. It is in theaters now.