Release Date: February 8th, 2019 (Santa Barbara International Film Festival) Directed by: William Conlin Written by: Thomas R. Burman, William Conlin Music by: Shawn Patterson Cast: Thomas R. Burman, Rick Baker, Joe Dante, Guillermo del Toro, Richard Donner, Dana Gould, John Landis, Leonard Maltin, Greg Nicotero, various
Gravitas Ventures, The Burman Studio Inc., Hellcat Productions LLC, 86 Minutes
This recently popped up on Prime Video, so I added it to my queue. I didn’t want to watch it, however, until I was done revisiting the original run of Planet of the Apes movies.
This was a great thing to watch following the five original films, though. And it’s especially cool for those who love practical special effects, movie makeup and/or the film franchise.
From the start, this documentary gets right into the development of the first Planet of the Apes movie and how everything from the effects side of the film came to be. It also gets into the sequels and talks about the advances in technology and how they changed the way the future Apes movies were made.
The thing I liked best about this, other than learning about the makeup process, was getting to know the creatives behind it all and how their craft changed filmmaking forever. It was also interesting seeing how their relationships evolved with one another and in a few instances, dissolved.
This really is a great piece on special effects filmmaking but it is made even better by telling a really human story about people that should be regarded as legends.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: other recent documentaries on filmmaking.
Also known as: Bond 22 (working title), B22 (promotional abbreviation) Release Date: October 29th, 2008 (London Film Festival) Directed by: Marc Forster Written by: Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade Based on: James Bond by Ian Fleming Music by: David Arnold Cast: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Gemma Arterton, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeffrey Wright, Judi Dench, David Harbour, Jesper Christensen, Rory Kinnear, Alfonso Cuaron (cameo), Guillermo del Toro (voice)
Eon Productions, Columbia Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 106 Minutes
“They say you’re judged by the strength of your enemies.” – James Bond
Quantum of Solace is a weird James Bond movie that seemed like it was trying to reinvent the franchise, tonally, after it already went through a major stylistic overhaul in the superb, previous film, Casino Royale.
I think that the director, Marc Forster, took a lot of creative license and the film suffers for that. Something that is part of a franchise, should have certain standards that keep the film cohesive and consistent with the other chapters in the larger, decades long, body of work.
I don’t necessarily blame Forster, as the studio may have been really keen on altering the Bond franchise following the immense success of Casino Royale. Plus, Forster wasn’t a guy known for action movies, he is known more for his dramatic, artsy films like The Kite Runner, Stranger Than Fiction, Stay, Finding Neverland and Monster’s Ball. And if I’m being honest, his other major action film, World War Z, really missed the mark too. But, personally, I really like most of Forster’s dramatic work and he is typically a great visual storyteller. I think that is probably why he was given a shot with this film, as Eon Productions possibly wanted an actual visionary to come in and freshen things up even further.
However, the problem with his action direction is almost immediately apparent in this film, as the opening scene features what should be a really fantastic sequence but it’s destroyed by quick, choppy edits that make it pretty hard to follow. It’s like a rapid paced mess of wasted, expensive shots, all of which deserved more than a split second of screen time knowing the level of craftsmanship and work that went into setting up those shots.
This issue carries over into all the other action scenes though and this is a hard movie to watch and absorb during these moments, which are aplenty.
Apart from that, the film also feels incomplete. It feels like two-thirds of a Bond movie were slapped together as best as the studio could salvage and then released with the hope that it would just be a hit, capitalizing off of the great movie before it.
For those who might not know, this film was made during the time of a big writers strike in Hollywood. When the strike happened, for better or worse (definitely worse), all writers stopped working. So it’s possible that the script was unfinished and for fear of losing money and being delayed, the studio just shoved this into the filming stage. It’s hard to really place blame on anyone due to the situation but the end result was a really lackluster Bond film and the worst one of the Daniel Craig era. Granted, there is still one more Craig-led film, which is slated to come out whenever this COVID-19 crap passes.
Quantum of Solace isn’t terrible; it’s just okay. Frankly, it’s almost forgettable other than the plot threads that tie it to the reemergence of the villainous SPECTRE organization.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: the other James Bond films of the Daniel Craig era.
Release Date: July 24th, 2008 (Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival) Directed by: Frank H. Woodward Cast: Ramsey Campbell, John Carpenter, Guillermo del Toro, Neil Gaiman, Stuart Gordon, S. T. Joshi, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Andrew Migliore, Robert M. Price, Peter Straub
Wyrd, 24 Frames, BintFilm, 90 Minutes
I didn’t know if there was a good documentary on H.P. Lovecraft but I felt like I wanted to watch one, so I found this. Luckily enough for all those who are interested, it is streaming for free on YouTube. Granted, that could change at any moment.
What’s great about this is that it is a pretty legit and well produced documentary. It features several notable people between Neil Gaiman, Guillermo del Toro, John Carpenter, Stuart Gordon, Peter Straub and others.
This goes through all the motions like you’d expect it to, as it discusses Lovecraft’s childhood, the things that shaped him and then it delves deep into his work and what it meant to people, primarily those being interviewed.
Overall, this is pretty standard, even though it definitely doesn’t feel like some hastily thrown together extra for a random horror box set. It’s a documentary created to stand on its own and it does quite well.
All of the interviewees did a good job providing stories, context and discussing how Lovecraft has influenced their creations.
It’s definitely worth checking out for fans of Lovecraft’s work, the stories he’s inspired or even just his film adaptations like Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dagon and more.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: H.P. Lovecraft film adaptations, as well as other documentaries about great literary figures.
Also known as: Blade 2: Bloodlust (working title) Release Date: March 21st, 2002 (premiere) Directed by: Guillermo del Toro Written by: David S. Goyer Based on:Blade by Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan Music by: Marco Beltrami Cast: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman, Leonor Varela, Norman Reedus, Luke Goss, Danny John-Jules, Donnie Yen, Matt Schulze
Marvel Enterprises, Amen Ra Films, Imaginary Forces, New Line Cinema, 117 Minutes
“They tortured me almost to death, and then let me heal in a vat of blood so they could go at it again. Sorry sons of bitches could’ve at least fixed my damn leg while they were at it.” – Whistler
I think I liked Blade II when I saw it in theaters, which was the last time I saw it. However, seeing it with 2019 eyes, this thing is a total failure when compared to the solidness of the first picture.
Guillermo del Toro directed this, which means something to a lot of people, but if I’m being honest, del Toro rarely wows me. I don’t know why. I like his style to a point but I think he’s a severely over hyped filmmaker and his faults are really apparent in this movie.
The first movie in this franchise had superb character development and world building. This just takes all of that and makes it darker for the sake of making it darker and it adds in so much of del Toro’s narrative and visual tropes that its a flat movie with flat, predictable characters that act more like caricatures than real people. Blade II is a perfect example of style over substance.
This also has a new vampire threat that is very del Toro-esque and while these new, more dangerous vampires should be scary, they’re just kind of weird and go so far outside of what a typical vampire is that they feel like a different type of monster altogether. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but I just don’t like these creatures and they seem pretty generic and lame. Plus, they all basically look the same, which is just shirtless, bald and pale things. If I’m being honest, it’s as if del Toro is trying to channel some of the visual cues from Dark City‘s baddies while adding in a bit more fright factor with their jaws splitting open and revealing vampire vagina faces like the aliens from the Predator franchise.
While there are several actors I like in this beyond Snipes and Kristofferson, all of them are poorly used. Ron Perlman is underwhelming, Norman Reedus is annoying, Donnie Yen is wasted and Danny John-Jules feels like a watered down and less fabulous version of his most famous character, the Cat from Red Dwarf.
I didn’t like the bad guys, I didn’t like the plot twists that one can see from ten miles away and there was nothing here that justifies the need for a sequel.
I’m trying to think of one scene or sequence that stands out in the movie and I’ve got nothing. This is just an almost two-hour music video full of late ’90s techno and industrial scene cliches. And the whole shebang is derivative as fuck.
Rating: 5.25/10 Pairs well with: the other Blade movies.
Also known as: The Hobbit: Part 3 (working title) Release Date: December 1st, 2014 (London premiere) Directed by: Peter Jackson Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro Based on:The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien Music by: Howard Shore Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Lee Pace, Sylvester McCoy, Manu Bennett, Aidan Turner, Benedict Cumberbatch (voice)
New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, WingNut Films, Warner Bros., 144 Minutes, 164 Minutes (Extended Edition)
“You are changed, Thorin! The Dwarf I met in Bag End would never have gone back on his word! Would never have doubted the loyalty of his kin!” – Bilbo Baggins
While this trilogy lacks when compared to its predecessor, The Lord of the Rings, it was still better than most big budget movies of the last decade and I was pretty excited about revisiting the third and final chapter, even though The Desoltation of Smaug was weak by Tolkien movie standards.
And this is the best of the Hobbit film series.
This is also the shortest of the three movies and I think that says a lot about the structure and flow of this film, as a short novel didn’t need to be stretched out into three really long movies.
This one jumps right in where we left off, as Smaug flies out to destroy the nearby town on the lake. My only real complaint about that though, was that the battle with Smaug was a cliffhanger and once you get to it here, it’s resolved in just ten minutes. I thought that the Extended Edition would rectify this a bit but it didn’t. Still, the opening of this film is fantastic and one of the best sequences out of all the Peter Jackson live action Tolkien movies.
Once that’s quickly resolved, the rest of this movie pretty much just deals with a gigantic fantasy battle of epic proportions. Everything leading up to this was the real story and most of the context. This film just decides to throw down and give us a real war, up close and personal. And while that might not seem like the makings of a great film, this is still really good and definitely the most fun Hobbit film to watch.
And it’s not just action for the sake of action, there are some real creative things that come into play. I love the elves shooting a massive volley of arrows only for the dwarves to respond with their “whirly bird” giant arrows that immediately destroy the elves attempt at a strong and deadly offense.
Additionally, the battle and every phase of it serves the story well, moves things forward and finds time to explore the main characters and their true motivations while making them all sort of find the spot where they need to be going forward in life.
Apart from the giant battle and Smaug, there is the big confrontation in the evil castle that sees Gandalf, Saruman, Elrond and Galadriel do battle with the spiritual forces of Sauron. This was one of the Peter Jackson additions to the story that wasn’t in the book but this was a satisfying finale to my favorite plot thread in these films. Jackson did a stupendous job with this portion of the Hobbit series and even if it wasn’t initially supposed to be there, it fits very well within the overall story arc of both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
I also like how this movie wraps up, as it doesn’t give us a really long, overly drawn out resolution like The Return of the King.
The Battle of the Five Armies might not be Lord of the Rings good but it is still a pretty fine fantasy epic motion picture. And it has really got me excited to want to revisit The Lord of the Rings trilogy once more.
Rating: 8.5/10 Pairs well with: the other two Hobbit films, as well as Lord of the Rings.
Also known as: The Hobbit: Part 2 (working title) Release Date: December 2nd, 2013 (Los Angeles premiere) Directed by: Peter Jackson Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro Based on:The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien Music by: Howard Shore Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Cate Blanchett, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Stephen Colbert, Lee Pace, Sylvester McCoy, Manu Bennett, Aidan Turner, Benedict Cumberbatch (voice)
New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, WingNut Films, Warner Bros., 161 Minutes, 186 Minutes (Extended Edition)
“There is something about you. Something you carry, something made of gold… but far more precious…” – Smaug
I’ve been rewatching these, as I haven’t seen them since they were in the theater. And like the Extended Editions of the Lord of the Rings films, I’m hoping that the Extended Editions of this trilogy help to make the films richer and give them more depth and context.
Where my disappointment with An Unexpected Journey was somewhat fixed, the Extended Edition of The Desolation of Smaug didn’t do much to make this film any better and in fact, stretched it out more than it needed to be.
The extended scenes in the previous film seemed to make things better. But here, it drags out some of the scenes that could have been even shorter in the theatrical version.
All the stuff that featured Smaug was pretty good but it felt really stretched out in this film. But as I said in the previous review, they didn’t need to stretch out a short novel over a nine-plus hour trilogy. It’s friggin’ overkill, even with the narrative additions to the plot that weren’t from the original book.
Watching the extended version splits the movie up onto two discs. In all honestly, it showed me just how inconsistent the film is. The first half is not very good but the second half is much better.
The first half of the film was dragged down by things that didn’t need to be there. I get that Beorn is in the book but his inclusion in the film was unnecessary and didn’t really serve the plot in any meaningful way. They spend a half hour on this and all that comes out of it is that the dwarves get some ponies to ride for about two minutes. Just cut the whole thing out. It didn’t fit in the film, it slowed things to a crawl and it didn’t help the narrative and should have been omitted just as the Tom Bombadil stuff was left out of the Lord of the Rings movie adaptations.
Also, the forest with the giant spiders was a pretty weak sequence overall and even though giant spiders exist in Middle Earth, it felt more like a rehash of something we already saw just a few years earlier in one of the Harry Potter movies. Although, it does serve the purpose of pushing Bilbo towards being more of a badass.
Then there was the whole sequence of the dwarves getting captured by the elves, escaping really easily and then giving us the barrels down the river scene, which is the worst part of any of these Lord of the Rings related films. That whole scene is the worst kind of cringe and it pulls you right out of the movie and almost makes you embarrassed for liking these films. It felt like over the top Disney blockbuster schlock.
Also, the dwarf and elf romance felt really forced and awkward as hell.
Once you get to the second half, things get much darker tonally, which contrasts the goofiness of the first half so greatly that it doesn’t feel like the same movie. But this is the superior half, even if it is also drawn out too much.
I really liked Luke Evans as Bard though. I also enjoyed the bits with Stephen Fry.
The best part of the whole film is when the dwarves finally reach the mountain and Bilbo Baggins comes face to face with Smaug. For fans of the BBC show Sherlock, this is extra exciting, as Bilbo is Watson and Smaug’s voice is Sherlock. At least I thought that was a cool aspect of this film’s casting. Luckily, both men also were brought into the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the last few years.
I can’t say that this is the worst of the three Hobbit films, as of yet. I still need to rewatch The Battle of the Five Armies. But from memory, I think I did like that one better than this chapter.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: the other two Hobbit films, as well as Lord of the Rings.
Also known as: The Hobbit: Part 1 (working title) Release Date: November 28th, 2012 (Wellington, New Zealand premiere) Directed by: Peter Jackson Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro Based on:The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien Music by: Howard Shore Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis, Lee Pace, Sylvester McCoy, Manu Bennett, Aidan Turner, Benedict Cumberbatch (voice)
New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, WingNut Films, Warner Bros., 169 Minutes, 182 Minutes (Extended Edition)
“I’m looking for someone to share in an adventure.” – Gandalf
When these movies first came out, I was really disappointed with them. Granted, they were still mostly enjoyable but they lacked the magic that made Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy so spectacular a decade earlier.
I finally revisited this, as I got a great deal on the entire set of Hobbit films in their Extended Edition format, which is also the versions of the Lord of the Rings films I own. And like the other Extended Editions, this beefed up version of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey became a better, more fleshed out movie.
Also, I’ve had six years to let this movie digest and I did find it more palatable this time around. Although, some of my issues with it are still there.
To start, this feels like a disjointed film, tonally. It’s as if it isn’t sure what it needs to be. Frankly, the tone of Lord of the Rings was perfect and this should have mirrored that. There isn’t really any reason why it couldn’t, as it had the same creative team behind it.
The film suffers from being too hokey at times and its the kind of hokey that is cringe. The dwarves look goofy as hell, the humor is usually off key or unnecessary and the musical bits, whether or not they exist in the book, really bogged this movie down and made it exude Disney level cheese but really bad Disney. I’m sorry but Aragon and the Mouth of Sauron didn’t break out into song and dance in Return of the King.
There’s also weird moments like the dwarf snoring and breathing moths in and out of his nose. And then there are strange, unnecessary things like Radagast the Brown having bird shit crusted to the side of his head. I also can’t leave out the insane physics of this movie and how the dwarves and Bilbo are seemingly indestructible and have incredible balance between the Stone Giants fight scene and sliding down a massive rock chute without splattering all over the place or breaking every bone in their bodies.
Another thing that hurts the film is that it relies on CGI much more heavily than its predecessors. The Lord of the Rings films had a bunch of guys in fantastic orc makeup and they looked real and totally badass. Here, we have computer animated orcs that look more like video game characters than something organic on the screen. Granted, I love that Manu Bennett plays the orc leader.
But the reason why CGI orcs don’t work for the film is because practical effects, if they can be utilized properly, just look better. The original Lord of the Rings trilogy was heralded as being a huge step forward in special effects on every level. The Hobbit movies, however, are just stagnation.
The film has some strong positives though.
All of the new main characters were well cast. I loved Martin Freeman as the young Bilbo and Richard Armitage as Thorin. It was also really cool seeing Lee Pace as the Elvenking, Thranduil. He wasn’t in this chapter very much but his role gets bigger in the two pictures after this one.
I also liked the additions to the story, at least in this film. The side story with the Necromancer is really cool and I liked seeing Gandalf, Saruman, Galadriel and Elrond come together to discuss the rising darkness in Middle Earth.
The problem with this trilogy, which becomes more apparent in the second and third film, is that this didn’t need to be a trilogy. The Hobbit is a short book when compared to the Lord of the Rings novels. This could have been expanded into two films and even included some of the additions to the story but three movies spreads the narrative too thin. Especially for movies roughly around the three hour mark.
An Unexpected Journey doesn’t quite work in the way that it should but it is still a hell of a good time for fans of Lord of the Rings.
Rating: 8.25/10 Pairs well with: the other two Hobbit films, as well as Lord of the Rings.
Release Date: September 10th, 2011 (Toronto International Film Festival) Directed by: Morgan Spurlock Written by: Jeremy Chilnick, Morgan Spurlock, Joss Whedon Music by: Jeff Peters Cast: Joss Whedon, Guillermo del Toro, Kevin Smith, Stan Lee, Kenneth Branagh, Eli Roth, Seth Rogen, Thomas Jane, Seth Green, Edgar Wright, Corey Feldman, Paul Scheer, Todd McFarlane, Matt Groening, Frank Miller, Gerard Way, Grant Morrison, Paul Dini, Joe Quesada, various
Mutant Enemy, Thomas Tull Productions, Warrior Poets, 88 Minutes
“I think the fans are the most important thing in the comic book business. And I might add, in any form of entertainment. I feel… you gotta be nice to the fans because without them… you’re nothing.” – Stan Lee
Here we go, these nerdy fan documentaries are a dime a dozen but I guess this one got some recognition for being well produced and for featuring a slew of famous nerd-centric personalities.
I didn’t know that this was a Morgan Spurlock film until I was already watching it. Had I known that, I probably wouldn’t have watched it. Reason being, I think the guy’s a f’n hack and disingenuous. His most popular film Super Size Me was unwatchable to anyone that can see through a ruse, which it was. It wasn’t science, it wasn’t a real test to see how fast food effects you, it was one man’s entertaining mockumentary, sold as a legit documentary and damnation of the fast food industry. His documentary series on FX was also mostly a big bullshit endeavor where he went into everything with a bias then cherry picked info and edited everything down to the narrative he wanted. He’s the reason behind the modern alteration to an old phrase, “No shit, Spurlock!”
Anyway, this is exactly what you’d think it is. A bunch of famous nerdy types talk about their nerdy shit and their love for the San Diego Comic Con, which is barely about comic books at this point and isn’t anywhere near as cool as it once was. You missed the boat by a decade or so, Spurlock.
The only thing I really liked about this was seeing the behind the scenes stuff on cosplay. I don’t normally give a shit about cosplay but it was interesting to see, nonetheless.
As far as the interviewees, the only one that stuck with me was Stan Lee. Everything else was edited so choppy that the vast majority of comments could have been things out of context and then just thrown together for Spurlock to manufacture whatever narrative he was going for. Stan Lee’s bit was heartwarming though but that’s because he’s Stan Lee and he always has eloquent shit to say.
You’d probably be alright if you never watched this. It doesn’t do anything to inspire you to go to San Diego Comic Con. If anything, it told me to stay away because I like comics and don’t give a crap about massive celebrity panels or Joss Whedon publicly ranting about lefty hysteria.
Rating: 5/10 Pairs well with: any of the dozens of other documentaries about nerd conventions or nerdy hobbies, there are so many.
Release Date: October 25th, 2013 Directed by: Scott Devine, J.M. Kenny Written by: Scott Devine, Jack Mulligan Music by: Kris Dirksen (as Methodic Doubt) Cast: Christopher Lee (narrator), Neal Adams, Clancy Brown, Kevin Conroy, Guillermo del Toro, Dan Didio, Paul Dini, Richard Donner, Marc Guggenheim, Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, CM Punk, Michael Shannon, Scott Snyder, Zack Snyder, Peter Tomasi, Marv Wolfman
DC Comics, mOcean, Warner Bros., 99 Minutes
This was just a really cool documentary accented by the narration of the legendary and superb Christopher Lee. It also had a fantastic cast of interviewees.
A great retrospective on the darker half of DC Comics’ long history, Necessary Evil was delightful. I enjoyed it so much and wish that it was actually a lot longer. The DC mythos and it’s rich history could easily fill up a season of a documentary series. I could sit through a Ken Burns’ Baseball length documentary on this subject and maintain the same level of excitement. Assuming its as well produced as this is.
You can’t have a great hero without a great villain and this does a fantastic job at making the audience understand how these characters truly are a “necessary evil” in how they make the heroes better and how they make these stories last for decades. Comic books are America’s mythology and a good villain with a good story is at the forefront of the most memorable moments in these epic tales.
This film analyzes a lot of key villains in the DC universe. Unfortunately, you can’t cover every villain in 99 minutes and frankly, this probably only touches on like one percent of them, as there have been so many in the 80 years since the first Superman comic was published. One of the interviewees mentioned that DC’s villain count was into the thousands and really, that doesn’t seem too far fetched in the grand scheme of things.
I really enjoyed hearing from Jim Lee, Geoff Johns and Scott Snyder. These guys have been at the forefront of many of the stories I’ve enjoyed since the ’90s. We also get to see movie directors Richard Donner, Zack Snyder and Guillermo del Toro chime in.
A lot of comic book documentaries are done on the cheap and can’t round up a very solid cast of people to interview. In the last few years, we’ve gotten some really good documentaries on the subject, though. This is one of the best out there and really, who doesn’t love the f’n villains?
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: Other recent comic book documentaries: The Image Revolution, Chris Claremont’s X-Men and Neil Gaiman: Dream Dangerously.
Also known as: Pacific Rim 2, Solar Rim (alternate titles), Pacific Rim: Maelstrom (working title) Release Date: March 15th, 2018 (Vue West End premiere) Directed by: Steven S. DeKnight Written by: Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, Steven S. DeKnight, T.S. Nowlin Based on: characters by Travis Beacham Music by: Lorne Balfe Cast: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Jing Tian, Cailee Spaeny, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Adria Arjona, Zhang Jin
Legendary Pictures, UpperRoom Entertainment Limited, DDY, Universal Pictures, 111 Minutes
This sequel has been a long time coming. It has been in development since the original came out and was a surprise success in the summer of ’13. Guillermo del Toro was slated to direct it, as he did the first one. However, as time rolled on, he left the project to work on other movies. He still produced the film, though.
I liked the original, even if I don’t feel like it holds up with repeated viewings. I had high hopes that this one would at least be an entertaining popcorn movie. I did have some skepticism, however, as the trailers didn’t due much to peak my interest. Nevertheless, I wanted to give it a fair shot because I have been a fan of kaiju pictures since I discovered them as a small child.
To be completely honest, this film that I had some low expectations for, ended up being better than its predecessor. I don’t think that most people will feel the same way but the issues I had with the first movie were mostly fixed with this chapter.
My biggest complaint about the first Pacific Rim is that everything looked generic. Jaegers looked similar and didn’t have exciting designs, all the kaiju were pretty boring and redundant minus a few alterations and every battle was at night giving more visual pizzazz to the cityscapes than the actual titans battling. I liked Pacific Rim but it was pretty unimaginative from a guy as creative as Guillermo del Toro.
Another problem with the first movie, is that it is too basic from a narrative standpoint. Monsters show up, man makes robots, robots smash monsters. Sure, there are a few side plot threads too but it’s a simple movie.
Lastly, the final battle was some shitty underwater thing and the big bad boss at the end wasn’t really that cool.
In this new film, all of these issues are corrected.
The Jaegers have much cooler and unique designs, color schemes and are mostly seen during daylight hours. Also, their enemies don’t just consist of generic kaiju. Our hero Jaegers fight an evil Jaeger, as well as Jaeger/kaiju hybrids and in the end, three powerful kaiju that form into one incredibly massive kaiju like some sort of reptilian Voltron.
The plot was also more layered, had twists and surprises and wasn’t a predictable experience. There were new threats that were unexpected, a main villain twist that was awesome and the mythos was expanded on and enriched by new concepts and developments.
The final battle was beautifully done with a much better final monster than the previous outing. Sure, it is a CGI festival but it is all out in the open, takes place in Tokyo like a proper kaiju movie, moves on to Mt. Fuji and has a pretty incredible final blow to the giant creature.
Pacific Rim: Uprising feels like an anime come to life in the best way possible. It’s over the top, ridiculous and incredible in its scope and scale. But it feels right. And it is f’n fun.
I found myself caring about this cast much more than the one of the previous film. John Boyega and Scott Eastwood were a better macho duo than Charlie Hunnam and Rob Kazinsky from the first film. They had more personality, better charisma and didn’t seem like generic muscle heads mindlessly locking horns, huffing and puffing, to prove who was more alpha whenever there were onlookers.
One aspect of this film that I loved was that regular people are now building their own Jaegers. The girl in the film built a small but very cool and effective Jaeger. Actually, it is my favorite robot from this film series. I hope that this is a concept that is explored more in a sequel. Having hundreds of patched together, homemade Jaegers running into battle would be a cool sight.
I already know that my opinion of liking this more than the original will not be a popular one. People love Guillermo del Toro like they they love Joss Whedon: with blind, undying faith because they created something really, really good once.
This film is also heavy on action… real heavy. People will say it’s a soulless imitation of that “auteur” del Toro’s original vision. Well, even with being action heavy, it has more narrative depth and more creativity crammed into that soullessness than the original film.
There is destruction on a massive scale, lots of battles and once you get to the first big action sequence, the film does not really let up on the high octane intensity. But that is exactly what this film is supposed to be. It’s a friggin’ kaiju movie. It also has giant robots. You don’t go to see these things for anything but entertainment and because it pairs well with a giant bucket of popcorn and a giant bucket of soda pop.
Rating: 8/10 Pairs well with:Pacific Rim, the 2014 American Godzilla remake, Kong: Skull Island.