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Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018)
Rise up.
Filmmaker(s): Steven S. DeKnight

It has been ten years since The Battle of the Breach and the oceans are still, but restless. Vindicated by the victory at the Breach, the Jaeger program has evolved into the most powerful global defense force in human history. The PPDC now calls upon the best and brightest to rise up and become the next generation of heroes when the Kaiju threat returns.

Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018)

Head Space

I really disliked the first one. The world building, in retrospect, was very impressive, building on a number of strong cinematic conventions that were ripe for evolution. But all the backstory and parallel plots, all the character development was within a single testosterone paradigm. I thought it a one-note elaboration on something dumb.

So why the change with this one? The love story here is more of a sibling partnership. The redemption is a traditional father-son deal. The score is more ordinary. The core is still punching. The fight scenes have a lit of action, but none of the camera energy we’ve seen from WETA, like the masterful ‘The Adventures of Tintin’.

But I loved it, and I think it was because this time around the world building was more prominent. Perhaps it is so by the very nature of being a sequel. The contract with the viewer is that we will have different characters and story but the same world, so my agreeing to watch is based on deliberately entering that world.

But I can say a few things that highlighted the world building. The first is rather simple and superficial: they’ve extended the cinematic conventions of holographic user interfaces and displays. We’ve been seeing these for decades, most notably in ‘Minority Report’, ‘Iron Man’, and ‘Prometheus’. But here they are quite a bit more extreme, which is suitably cinematic given the other exaggerations. But more important is that they are peripheral; there is not a scene where the UI becomes the focus. Every instance has them as if they were simple props. That may not be deliberate, but the effect is that this world’s tech is so magically advanced that these UIs are not notable. (The use of iPads in contrast is jarring.)

The other remarkable world building is in the cosmology. Everything is abstracted and extended from a cinematic tradition. Sure, we have the monsters, but under are layers and layers. The monsters are only created by some other race. That other society permeates a Tony Stark-like superrich company through a human intermediary. The company produces tens of thousands of ‘alien rippers’ capable of synthesising a new class of monster from basic monsters. That is four levels of adversary, each in their own biological systems.

That tech company’s role tipples between Stark and Tyrell, with what we think will be their role as disrupters shifts unexpectedly.

The goals shift. The effect of this plot wise should not be unappreciated. These blockbusters always set up the conflict early, so you know what the good guys have to do. What their mission is shifts. Who the bad guys are shifts. We still have the same comic book heroes, behaving the same way — but in a prismatic world.

That’s why I liked it.

Posted in 2022

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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