Pacific Rim: Uprising Review

Pacific Rim Uprising is the same as its predecessor in every way, only two steps in a worse direction.

It takes place ten years after the conclusive events of Pacific Rim, only now there is a new enemy that threatens humanity. We focus in on out semi-main protagonist Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), who was once a promising soldier now turned to a life of crime. But, when giant evil robots and monsters return for round 2, Pentecost must return to pilot his giant robot and save the day. At least, that’s the general gist of what’s going on.

The biggest fundamental flaw with the film is that the characters are poorly written and don’t fit with this story. Never are they charming, funny, or even relatable. They just felt like people in a film studio doing stuff. Their personalities were the cookie cutter stereotypes done in the most clichéd way imaginable. There was the tough military guy played by Scott Eastwood, as well as the cool rebellious dude, who felt more like he was playing a discount John Boyega rather than the real John Boyega. And who can forget the sciency guy who speaks in intellectual jargon and looks like a coked-out Willem DaFoe.

All together, they try their best to give audiences as bland and forgettable of an experience as science fiction can possibly allow.

The climax does provide us with the robots vs. monsters fight we were promised, albeit not as stylish or exciting as the previous film. Maybe it was the unconvincing CGI effects, or perhaps the exhaustion from the last ninety minutes setting in. Whatever the case, this action sequence wasn’t nearly as intense or rousing as it should’ve been.

Those pulling the strings of Pacific Rim Uprising seemed too preoccupied with turning this into the next summer blockbuster franchise. Little effort was put into characterization and overly complex story, resulting in a hodgepodge of sci-fi nonsense that rivals the intelligence of Transformers 5Pacific Rim Uprising is just fine for those who want to watch a monster get beat up for twenty minutes, so long as they’re willing to sit through ninety minutes of gibberish to get there.

Pacific Rim was a big, dumb, exciting action movie. This one was just dumb.

The Verdict: D

-Zachary Flint

 

A Wrinkle in Time Review: A Wrinkled Mess

Seeing as Disney didn’t get the memo sent by the writers of Tomorrowland, that when you write a film that’s too universally idealistic and preachy it loses any sense of realism to viewers, they made the same mistake again. This time with the fantasy/adventure movie A Wrinkle in Time.

The film stars Storm Reid as Meg Murry, a self-conscious young girl whose scientist dad (Chris Pine) went missing four years ago (after all, it is a Disney movie, at least one parent must be gone or dead). Her father had been working on something called the tesseract (no he’s not an Avenger) that allows you to travel through space and time. And through a string of events I still don’t fully understand, Meg meets three astral travelers (played by Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling) who inform her that her father is alive and needs her help on a distant planet. Meg then goes with the three travelers on a journey of a lifetime to save her father and bring him home.

Sadly for A Wrinkle in Time, the only halfway decent performance came from Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who was barely even in the movie. Everyone else was either mugging for the camera or just acted too ridiculous to take seriously. I refuse to believe the actors and actresses are solely to blame, as the writing hardly served as a platform to work off. Most of these characters didn’t have defined personalities or motivations, and some didn’t have any reason being in the film at all.

Aside from the main cast, characters seemed to drop in and out of the film haphazardly, with no driving force moving the plot forward. Meg’s younger brother Charles Wallace is who introduces us to the three traveling Mrs., yet it’s never explained how he knows who they are or where he met them in the first place. And while information like this is pertinent to convey to the audience, they choose to instead spell out the obvious with on the nose backstory’s that we already understood.

Even the special effects, which are usually showcased in these kinds of fantasy/adventure movies, were subdued and hidden. It was as if they were so embarrassed of the end product that they purposely held back on the FX when they stitched the film together in post. Moments that should’ve been visually awe-inspiring and magical were incredibly lackluster and unconvincing.

One of A Wrinkle in Times many morals it tries to convince the audience is that your flaws and imperfections make you who you are, and that everyone has their faults. A good, genuine message for kids. However, the protagonist Meg is written too perfectly and altruistically to the point where she has no real character flaws herself. All this making her an impossible person to relate to.

The other messages have the same effect. You create this oversimplified world where all the woes of humanity are boiled down into this one evil entity. It goes so overboard in so many ways that I couldn’t take any of it seriously. I think kids would appreciate a simpler, well thought out message (like the one about self-esteem and self-efficacy) over some ham-fisted hippie morals.

I can’t really tell whether A Wrinkle in Time’s themes were incompetently well intentioned or hippy-dippy propaganda meant to manipulate kids rather than inspire them. Regardless of the intent, the film was a boring mess of half-baked ideas and lamely written characters. I’d like to conclude this review with a little quote of my own for Mrs. Who to use:

“This movie sucks.”

-Zachary Flint, American

The Verdict: D-

The Shape of Water Review

From the talented mind of Guillermo del Toro comes one of the most highly praised and cherished films of 2017, The Shape of Water.

Taking place during the early Cold War years, the story focuses on a mute U.S. government lab employee named Elisa (played wonderfully by Sally Hawkins). Living a quite isolated life, things change forever when she discovers a classified government secret in the lab — a scaled, one-of-a-kind creature taken from South America. Elisa quickly develops a romantic bond with the Amphibian Man (as I will refer to him as), and even hatches a daring plan to rescue him from the facility. What follows is an exciting love story that’s both quaint and dramatic.

The Shape of Water had a nice 1950’s era look, with a distinct, Guillermo del Toro style to it. Set designs (like the chambers of the Amphibian Man) and their lighting were reminiscent of del Toro’s visually artistic work on Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy. Even the Amphibian Man himself was aesthetically similar to monsters I saw in Hellboy, only with a Creature from the Black Lagoon look.

And like many of del Toro’s other films, the fantasy elements fused seamlessly with the more grounded plot points. Some scenes would be engulfed in high-stakes tension between Elisa and the intimidating Colonel Strickland (played fiercely by Michael Shannon). Other contrasting moments would have this lighthearted, fantasy whimsy to them, mostly pertaining to the romantic bond between Elisa and the Amphibian Man. This romance, which is the cornerstone of the whole film, unfolds in the most magical and marvelous of ways. And the creature-human gap between the two doesn’t come off as jarring as one would think.

The Shape of Water was a beautifully romantic story that I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish. The love story of Elisa and the Amphibian Man was more emotionally moving and heartfelt than any love story I’ve seen in a long time. The performances were incredibly convincing, the cinematography distinct, and the story both traditional and novel at the same time. All the pieces fell perfectly together for The Shape of Water, making it an intense and exciting fairy tale of the highest quality, and one that I plan on returning to for future viewings.

The Verdict: A

-Zachary Flint

Alice: Through the Looking Glass Review

 

Alice through the Looking Glass managed to feel even more dull, drab, and overall worse than the previous Alice in Wonderland. Even to the point where I cannot remember laughing once throughout the whole film.

The story takes place three years after the events of the first film, as Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is returning from a voyage at sea, only to find out her mother sold her half of the company to that pale guy Sheamus from the first movie. Alice gets upset and somehow makes it back to “Underland”. Only to find out that the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is literally dying because nobody believes him that his parents are still alive somewhere.

Right off the bat everything is going wrong for our protagonist. All these problems mixed with the dark tone of the film create a very depressing mood. I hardly smiled while watching the movie. Did nobody in the production of this film stop and think that maybe it was a little too dark? Given the source material of the usually wacky and nonsensical world of Wonderland.

Since the main comedic relief of the previous Alice in Wonderland film is a wet blanket in this film, there are few jokes made. The jokes that were made in Alice through the Looking Glass got very little laughs from the audience. The theater was dead silent the entire runtime and some moviegoers even got up and left before the halfway point.

The creators of Alice through the Looking Glass even managed to make Sacha Baron Cohen as boring and drab as possible. I felt that his dialogue was just as unfunny and lame as the rest of the cast. I guess he was supposed to take the role as comedic relief but his character came off as painful to watch.

The one major plus of this movie is our protagonist Alice herself. More specifically, Mia Wasikowska’s acting. In Alice in Wonderland, I felt she was very drab and showed little to no emotion throughout the entirety of the runtime. In Alice through the Looking Glass she genuinely held my attention more than any other actor or actress in the movie. She showed emotion, and led us a little deeper into the character of Alice.

I know many people, including myself, felt that Time Burton taking a back seat to directing and only producing the film would give a better outcome than his Alice in Wonderland. Maybe it wouldn’t be so dark, the characters as bland, and the general feeling not “style over substance”.

We were all very wrong.

Overall, I was mostly disappointed with Alice through the Looking Glass. Other than some of the visuals and Mia Wasikowska’s performance, I don’t think this film had anything going for it. It’s a real shame that the live action adaptations of Alice in Wonderland didn’t turn out as everyone would have liked. Perhaps in the future, with Disney’s other live action remakes, Alice in Wonderland can have a better fitting movie.

Zachary Flint

 

ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS