Rampage

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Brad Peyton

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jake Lacey, Joe Manganiello, and P.J. Byrne

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a bonafide movie star. If you look at his CV, it’s pretty much standard action-adventure fare, with the odd dip into action-comedy. The roles that he plays don’t vary much, but still people flock to see the next movie from The Rock. It’s easy to see why, the man oozes charisma. You don’t go to see a Dwayne Johnson movie to see him get stuck into a character, you go to see him kicking ass whilst quipping witticisms. Rampage sees him teaming up with Brad Peyton, the pair having previously worked together on Journey 2 and San Andreas. The film doesn’t deal in subtleties, it knows it has two main attractions, and puts them both front and centre. Ones a giant albino gorilla, the other is a giant bald man.

Rampage is the story of Davis Okoye, played by Dwayne Johnson. A primatologist who works at a sanctuary. It’s here that he has formed a close bond with an albino gorilla named George. When a container falls out of a space shuttle and crash lands on earth, a pathogen inside infects George. The pathogen is a form of genetic editing, and George soon starts growing at an alarming rate, whilst his aggression levels shoot through the roof. He’s not the only animal to be infected though, there’s also a giant flying wolf, and a giant alligator. Throw into the mix a shady government agency which wants to take George for study, and a shady corporation who want to weaponise the pathogen, Davis will have his work cut out as he tries to return George to normal.

Big. Dumb. Fun. That’s exactly what this movie sets out to be, and boy, does it achieve it. It whips by at a frantic pace, barely leaving you time to catch your breath or think too much about it. Which is good because the plot would not stand up to any scrutiny, but there is enough charm here for you to not really care. It’s a bit of a mish mash of different movies, but they sorta work together. It’s bonkers in all the right ways. The prologue is a blend of Gravity and Alien, but instead of an alien it’s a giant rodent killing people off. It then morphs into Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, before settling on Godzilla. The action is fun, but it’s all held together by another charismatic performance from Dwayne Johnson.

It’s a proper popcorn movie, but does still have the marks of a film which has had major rewrites. It’s a plot where things just happen one after the other without much rhyme or reason. Any excuse to just move onto the next set piece. You’re also introduced to a group of colleagues who work with Davis for the first third of the movie, only to completely disappear and be replaced with characters which fit the plot better. A lot of these characters are given short shrift, although Jeffrey Dean Morgan is good fun. There are also duller moments, the whole sub plot of corporate espionage bores, and the brief introduction to a team of mercenaries which isn’t needed. The film excels when The Rock is on screen doing his thing. The film just needed to keep a tighter focus on his story.

Overall, this is hugely enjoyable romp. It’s pure fluff, but there is enough charm and charisma here to put it a step above similar movies. Gladly this is no Transformers, it’s a fun film which knows where it’s strengths lie.

7/10

Truth Or Dare

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Jeff Wadlow

Starring: Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violett Beane, Sophia Ali, Landon Liboiron, Hayden Szeto, Nolan Gerard Funk, and Sam Lerner.

2018 has been a fantastic year for horror movies. In the last month we’ve seen both A Quiet Place, and Ghost Stories released. Two incredibly different movies, both of which pushed the genre in exciting directions. Arriving hot on their heels is Truth Or Dare, the latest from Blumhouse Pictures, Jason Blum’s production house which specialises in making low budget horror movies which return huge box office, whilst also pushing the envelope with Whiplash and Get Out. Here he invests in director Jeff Wadlow, best known for directing the middling Kick-Ass sequel. If 2018 has been a great year for horror, Truth Or Dare feels like it should have come out in 2000.

Truth Or Dare follows Lucy Hale’s Amelia, a college student dragged along to Mexico by her friends for Spring Break. On their last night in Mexico she meets a guy called Carter at a bar. Carter invites Olivia and her friends to an abandoned Mission, where they start to play Truth Or Dare. When asked to tell a truth, Carter tells them that he tricked them to come up to the Mission so they would play the game. He tells them that the game is real, and if they don’t play they will die, if they don’t do the dare they will die, and if they don’t tell the truth they will die. They brush it off, but after one of their friends dies when chickening out on a dare, they realise Carter was telling the truth and that they will have to play.

Let’s make one thing clear. I’m probably not the target audience for this movie. This is a film which has got its sights set on 15-18 year olds. The casting alone makes this painfully obvious. Lucy Hale from Pretty Little Liars, Tyler Posey from Teen Wolf, these are some of the hottest stars in American television, all from shows aimed at an audience younger than me. If these are the kind of shows you enjoy, you might have some fun with this movie. If you’re a hardened horror fan, there’s nothing here for you. It moves at a good pace, and the cast do well, but at the end of the day it’s a stupid premise, and the execution is too sincere to have fun with it.

The direction is lacklustre at best. The look and feel of the film is far from cinematic. It’s like binge watching a whole season of The Vampire Diaries, although that comparison is unfair to The Vampire Diaries. There is next to no tension. There are no actual scares; Wadlow is more interested in framing and lighting his good looking cast than actually making the horror in this movie work. It’s laughable at times, but not intentionally. When the kids visit the police station for the third time in a day, you know the movie has no internal logic. I just used the word kids, which is ridiculous, because these actors are clearly much older than the parts they are playing. It’s like all of the bad horror tropes from the 90’s and early 00’s blended into one awful movie.

The biggest disappointment though, is that the film doesn’t embrace the ridiculousness of its premise. The easiest comparison for this movie is Final Destination, which had fun with the way in which it disposed of its cast in increasingly ingenious ways. The deaths in Truth Or Dare are terrible. It’s a strangely bloodless movies, and the deaths are staged so simply, you wish more thought had gone into them, that they’d been smarter. These aren’t characters you are supposed to care about. Most of them you don’t spend enough time with, and the ones you do are pretty terrible people, so their deaths aren’t supposed to hit on an emotional level. Which is fine, but they could have at least made the deaths fun. Alternatively, they could have approached it with a more knowing tone. Used the 90’s horror tropes in a way to make a pastiche of movies like Final Destination.

This film fails pretty much on every level. It’s not scary, it’s not smart, and it’s not funny, at least not intentionally. Save yourself the cost of a cinema ticket, and binge watch a young adult box set, you will get a lot more out of it. Alternatively shove a pen in your eye socket, it will be more fun.

 

3/10

Ghost Stories

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman

Starring: Andy Nyman, Paul Whitehorse, Alex Lawther, and Martin Freeman.

Based on their own stage play, directors and writers Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman bring their creation to the big screen. I’ve never seen the aforementioned play, in fact before the movie came out I hadn’t even heard of it. Dyson is best known for The League Of Gentlemen, whilst Nyman is best known for his work with Derren Brown. The influence of both is apparent on the screen. This is classic horror, with its roots in psychology.

Andy Nyman plays Professor Goodman, a tv personality who hosts a documentary series exposing psychic frauds. When his hero, Professor Charles Cameron, an older tv host who debunked the supernatural, invites him to look at three cases which have evaded explanation, Goldman sets out to find the logical explanation. What follows is an anthology of three different stories told through interview and flash back. Paul Whitehouse, and his tale of an abandoned asylum. Alex Lawther, and his late night drive through the woods; and Martin Freeman, and his experience with a poltergeist.

Ghost Stories is a genuinely scary movie. Scary in a way rarely seen these days. It’s creepy, it’s weird, and it’s superbly done. It’s very easy to describe this as a rollercoaster of a movie. It eases you into it, and then the tension starts to build, ratcheting up until the big scare, and then it sends you hurtling into the abyss, making you both grip the arm of your seat, and giving you a huge smile at the same time. There’s a pattern to it as well, with each story ending at its most horrific for a quick reset before we hurtle into the next story. There is an over arcing plot to the anthology style, clues which keen eyed viewers will pick up on early. It helps hold the film together, and allows for some genuine twists and turns, which are satisfyingly tied up.

The cast are superb. Alex Lawther is a rising British talent, after starring in an episode of Black Mirror, and The End Of The F**king World. He may be in danger of being type cast, but boy does he do creepy well. The whole of his segment is pretty much shown through close ups, and he sells the terror particularly well. Paul Whitehouse is great in more dramatic role for him, and Martin Freeman is reliably solid. It’s perhaps telling that all these actors can do comedy well, and though this film is certainly not a comedy, laughs are used in the same way as a jump scare, it’s a release of the tension the film has built up, and adds to the enjoyment of the experience. Director, writer, and star Andy Nyman more than holds his own against these better known names.

If the film does have any flaws it’s in the way it can’t quite escape it’s stage show origin. It’s a good looking film, but was obviously shot for a modest budget. Stylistically it reminded me of BBC’s Sherlock, but that may have been the Martin Freeman connection. The three story structure also felt designed for the stage, I haven’t seen the play, but I can imagine that where the film cuts out of the flashbacks is where there is a black out on stage. The resets also meant that there was no sense of escalation. I wanted each story to get scarier and scarier. Instead it built to the same crescendo and cut at the same volume at almost every story. I enjoyed the ending, I had clocked on to some of the stuff going on quite early, but was left satisfied with the explanation, even if it was slightly spoon fed.

Overall, this film is a great deal of fun. It’s a ride of a movie which will both scare and exhilarate in equal measure. Hopefully it will be bring about a new dawn of British horror nmovies. It does have a uniquely British sensibility to it. It’s not afraid to take risks, it’s got weird moments, the fact that these moments work is due to fantastic direction and a great cast. It perhaps wraps things up a bit to neatly though, which whilst satisfying from a story point of view, does mean that not many of the scares linger once the film has finished.

7/10

A Quiet Place

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. John Krasinski

Starring: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Noah Jupe, and Millicent Simmonds.

From starring in the US version of The Office, to action star, to first time director, it’s seems there’s nothing that John Krasinski can’t do, as he makes directing one of the scariest movies in years look easy. It helps that he can enlist the help of his superstar wife, Emily Blunt to join his cast, but the credit for what has been crafted here should all go to Krasinski. In a character driven horror story with a sci-fi premise. There were rumours before it came out that it might be another surprise Cloverfield movie, it’s not. Cloverfield Paradox could only dream of being this good.

The film is set in a near, post-apocalyptic future. Most of the human race has seemingly been wiped out by what you assume is an alien species, but we’re never told where these monsters have come from. The catch is that the creatures are blind, but have super sensitive hearing which they use to hunt down the humans. John Krasinski plays Lee, a man trying to keep his family safe whilst preparing for the birth of another child with his wife Evelyn, played by Emily Blunt. The only way to stay truly safe though is by staying silent.

A Quiet Place is the most affecting horror movie in years. I have to admit, horror isn’t my favourite genre. I don’t get scared by films, and the modern day horror film is all about long periods of quiet leading to jump scares that I find myself bored. This was not the case with A Quiet Place. Tense, and taught throughout, it functions as a completely engaging thriller that had me on the edge of my seat the whole time. The sci-fi setting gave the film a level of intrigue, and the story itself had an emotional edge which helped elevate the movie above its horror trappings.

There’s a lot to be applauded within this movie, but the element that really makes it work is the sound design. It’s no surprise that a film which is about being as quiet as possible hinges on how well the sound works on the film. The diegetic sound, and its use is incredible. The score is non-intrusive, and Krasinski uses both as a tool to ratchet up the tension. An early scene between Millicent Simmonds Regan and her brother is a great example. Regan is deaf, and uses a hearing aid. During the sign language conversation, Krasinski Cuts between close ups of the two of them, the sound transitioning between what the two of them are hearing with the cuts. There’s a rhythm to this, starting slow, and getting faster, and as the rhythm builds so does the tension. It’s impressive stuff.

The film also works because of the emotional core. The film is crafted around an emotional story about a Dad and his little girl. It’s this story that is the real focus of the film. The investment I had in these characters meant that the more visceral moments really hit home. I physically winced and jumped during moments in this film, not something I normally do. This investment is down to both great story telling, and great acting. John Krasinski does well as the stoic father, and there’s a great soulfulness to his performance, his puppy dog eyes exuding pain and torment, but it’s the two females in the film who really wow. Emily Blunt is fantastic, and is given some of the meatier stuff, and Millicent Simmonds all but steals the film as Regan. It’s a performance which announces the introduction of a future star.

A Quiet Place is one of the best horror movies in recent times. It’s a thrill ride of a film, that will have you on the edge of your seat the whole time. It’s tight and taught, but every moment of the film counts. John Krasinski has hit a home run on his first try, with an intelligent and economic use of cinematic tools. There’s also a nice little message of female empowerment. It starts with Krasinski only taking his son to go get supplies and food, with the two women left at home to do the laundry, this is nicely switched at the end of the film. I’m not a huge horror fan, but I loved this.

9/10

A Wrinkle In Time

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Ava DuVernay

Starring: Storm Reid, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Peña, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

Ava DuVernay is one of the leading lights in American film making. Blazing a trail for both people of colour and for female filmmakers. Her output is usually politically charged, having directed both Selma, and the documentary feature 13th. The later of which won the academy award for best documentary with its exploration of the incarceration of African-American men in America. It’s somewhat of a surprise then that her next feature is a Disney movie primarily aimed at kids. It’s clear though that Ava had a vision for this movie, and that there was a story here that she wanted to tell. She turned down countless other big budget movies, including Black Panther, but with A Wrinkle In Time she became the first African-American woman to helm a film with a budget over $100 million.

A Wrinkle In Time follows the story of Meg, a brilliant Storm Reid, who has become despondent ever since the disappearance of her father, Chris Pine, four years ago. She lives with her Mum and younger adopted brother Charles Wallace. She gets into fights at school, and her grades are starting to slip. We’re told that she used to be a top student, and her brother tells her she’s got more potential than anybody. When her brother introduces her to Mrs Which, Mrs Who and Mrs Whatsit, she finds out that her father had managed to wrinkle space time, allowing him to travel through the universe instantaneously. He’s now been captured by a terrible evil, and it’ll be up to Meg, Charles Wallace and their friend Calvin to rescue him.

The buzz going into this film was mixed. I don’t understand that, I loved this movie. Disney release one of these every year, a big budget movie which isn’t based on an existing franchise, we’ve had The Lone Ranger, and Tomorrowland, and now we’ve got A Wrinkle In Time. They struggle to find their audience, but are some of the most interesting films Disney release. There’s a part in the film where Chris Pine talks about finding the right frequency to wrinkle space time, maybe you had to find the right frequency to really appreciate this movie, because for me it resonates loudly. If you thought that Ava was leaving the politics at the child friendly door, don’t worry, she doesn’t hit you over the head with it, but there’s a message which runs throughout the movie.

The casting alone sends a clear message, Ava is about diversity, and giving opportunities both in front of and behind the camera. The choice of a bi-racial lead isn’t just a token gesture, it becomes the crux of the movie. This is a film about a young girl who doesn’t love herself, doesn’t believe in herself, and that message is reinforced by everyone around her. When Calvin tells her he likes her hair and she says that he doesn’t, it means something. It’s backed up later when she faces the version of herself she wishes she was, and that version has straightened hair. The film is about fighting conformity, and Ava makes it clear that this is of upmost importance to those who are told that the way they naturally look isn’t right, or isn’t beautiful.

The film looks fantastic as well. It’s clear that this is a singular vision of this story. The vistas of the alien planets are gorgeous to behold, and the way the world is built is ingenious. It’s unlike anything DuVernay has done before and she proves herself equal to the task. The rush you get when seeing this world is something I haven’t felt since Avatar. It’s also an incredibly emotional movie. There’s an emotional note which is hit from the very first scene, and it sounds throughout the whole film, getting louder and louder until you can’t hold back the tears. It delivers the most emotionally satisfying climax to a film this year. The cast are all brilliant, especially the three young leads. Storm Reid is a future superstar, and Deric McCabe is immensely enjoyable.

If there’s any faults with the film, it may be in the structure of the story. The first two acts are spent being transported from place to place, with a lot of exposition. It isn’t until the third act that Meg is afforded any agency, which might be a problem for some, but is kind of the point of the film. It’s about a young girl finding her agency. The messages in this film are all beautifully delivered, about loving yourself, your faults, your differences, and building up those around you. It’s about love in the purest form, which may sound saccharine but it’s anything but.

Overall, A Wrinkle In Time is a film not to be missed. If you have a young child, I implore you to take them to see it. They’ll be awed at the world created, but they’ll also learn some important lessons along the way. Ava DuVernay continues to blaze a trail, and I can’t wait to see what she does next, and to see what those who follow her come up with.

9/10

Annihilation

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Alex Garland

Starring: Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Benedict Wong, Gina Rodriguez, and Tuva Novotny.

Alex Garland maybe one of the greatest names in contemporary science fiction cinema. As a screenwriter he has given us the likes of 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Dredd, and Never Let Me Go. His directorial debut, Ex-Machina, was adult sci-fi at its best, and showcased how his flair with a camera was equal to his skill with a pen. For me, the big shame of Annihilation is that I didn’t see it in the big screen. Rumours are that the studio behind it thought it was too intellectual to sell to modern day cinema goers, so sold it to Netflix instead. It’s a shame as much of the joy of the movie lies in the details, which are harder to spot if you’re watching on your phone. Yes, I did end the film confused about some things, but that’s the point of a film like this, you’re supposed to question what you saw, it’s supposed to provoke discussion. Too often are audiences treated as dumb, so it’ll be a shame if this becomes the norm for studios.

Annihilation is the story of Lena, played by Natalie Portman, an ex-soldier who is now a teaching academic in the field of biology. Her husband, Kane (Oscar Isaac), is still a soldier, and has been away for two years. Lena fears the worst, but one day Kane shows back up out of the blue. He has no idea where he has been, or how he got home. He starts to become ill and falls into a coma. A government agency soon step in, and tell Lena that Kane was a part of a team who entered The Shimmer, a permeable membrane that has settled around a national park in Florida and is slowly expanding outwards. Kane was the only member to come back. In order to find a solution to what is wrong with Kane, Lena joins a team of three other women scientist to enter The Shimmer.

Annihilation is an ambitious movie. There are ideas in this film that go beyond the normal blockbuster. It follows themes of self-destruction, and re-birth, and explores what it is that drives us as humans. It’s not a perfect film though, it juggles its ideas well for the most part, but doesn’t pay everything off at the end. The thing about it though, is that I saw it last night, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Maybe, it’s too soon to write a review for it, because it really is a film that needs to gestate in your mind. I think this might be my first review with slight spoilers, as it’s a hard film to write around.

It’s a truly feminine film. I mean that in the sense that it’s a feminine story. Nothing happens in this film for no reason, so the fact that it’s four women scientist going into The Shimmer is important. Each moment of this movie is like a puzzle piece, and you need them all to unlock the film. I’ve seen a lot of people who’s questions after the film seem to be on the nature of The Shimmer, on whether it’s an extra-terrestrial weapon or not, I think that misses the point. The questions I was asking were about identity. Is Lena still Lena? I honestly believe the answer to that is yes, and no. Sticking with the themes of destruction and re-birth, Lena isn’t the same Lena as the beginning of the film because she has gone through something, and is now irreversibly changed.

The film is gorgeous to look at. The dreamscape that is The Shimmer, looks incredible. At points being fantastically beautiful, and at other points being terrifyingly hideous. Both the production design and the cinematography are incredible. The special effects can leave something to be desired, especially at the climax of the film, which almost lets the whole thing down. Portman is terrific in the central role, but too many of the other roles feel underwritten. There’s one moment where another character tells Lena all of the groups secrets, and that seems to be it for their development. I’m still mulling over some of the science, and I can’t quite believe it holds up, which isn’t usually a problem as it is just a film, but the ideas of this film are rooted in their science.

Garland has stretched himself, and his budget, and created a fascinating watch. It’s ambitious, but doesn’t always nail it’s ambitions. It’s definitely a film that will stay with me, and that’s what I want from my sci-fi. It’s an emotional story that didn’t quite connect with my emotions. It’s a cerebral film, which will keep you thinking.

7/10

After thoughts: Spoilers Ahead

– The thing that bugs me most is the tattoo. It’s obviously important. It switches from character to character, and Portman has it on her forearm at the end of the movie. If this tattoo is supposed to represent that she’s a doppelgänger then why did she have it before entering the lighthouse. Does that mean she was already a doppelgänger before she entered? I could be part of the DNA being refracted, but Tattoos aren’t programmed into our DNA.

– My overall feeling is that the Lena who came out The Shimmer is the original Lena, but also completely different. The way our body works is that cells constantly replicate and die. So the person you are in five years time is still you, but every cell will be different. Lena’s cells had started to replicate with the mutation so by the end she is a completely different person whether she is a doppelgänger or not. This is a physical manifestation of the battle she is having with herself, and how what she goes through changes her, echoing Sheppard’s dialogue when she talks about the death of her daughter, saying she mourned for two lives, her little girl, and the person she once was.

– The film can be read on many levels. The two I like the most is as a metaphor for cancer. In particular cervical cancer, which is mentioned at the beginning of the film, and which I think ties into the design of the tunnel at the lighthouse. The other way is it looking at it in a very Jungian fashion. Karl Jung talks about how we have to deal with trauma in the sub-consciousness in order to over come it, well this film could be looked at as journey into Lena’s sub-conscious where she has to battle her own self-destructive behaviours in order to overcome the mistakes she has made.

Pacific Rim: Uprising

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Steven S. DeKnight

Starring: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Rinko Kikuchi, Cailee Spaeny, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, and Tian Jing

 

In 2013, when the first Pacific Rim was released, the film was a breath of fresh air. Guillermo Del Toro showed the bloated Transformers franchise how giant, fighting robots  should be done. I loved the way the film transported me back to being a kid, playing with action figures, and watching Saturday morning television. The first film wasn’t an out and out hit, but it made enough money, especially in China, for a sequel to be green lit. Del Toro returns with a producers credit, but the man calling the shots this time around is Steven S. DeKnight, fresh off of ushering Daredevil to the small screen. John Boyega is also taking a more active role in production as a producer. I went in hoping I was going to get more of what I loved from the first movie, and I left pretty happy.

Pacififc Rim: Uprising is set 10 years after the events of the first movie. The breach which allowed the Kaiju (giant monsters) to enter our world from a parallel universe has been sealed, and the world is attempting to recover now that the threat has gone. Boyega plays Jake Pentecost, the son of Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentecost who sacrificed himself at the end of the first movie. Jake is a drop out from Jaeger academy, a self-professed hustler who steals junk parts to sell to those who are building their own Jaegers (giant robots). When he meets Amara Namani, played by Cailee Spaeny, a young girl who has built her own Jaeger, they draw the attention of local law enforcement and are soon arrested. Facing prison, Jake decides to re-enlist in the Jaeger programme, and train a new batch of recruits, which now includes Namani. He tells his sister Mako (Rinko Kikuchi), and old frenemy Nate (Scott Eastwood), that the programme is waste of time, but soon a new threat emerges.

This film is heaps of big, dumb, fun. Of course, it’s all complete nonsense, that’s part of the point. It’s the simplicity of the plot which allows you to just lean back and enjoy yourself. The world building of the first movie was done so well that you enter this movie believing the world you’re in, and buying into the premise. It’s giant robots fighting giant robots, and giant robots fighting giant monsters. It’s essentially Power Rangers on steroids. There’s a human element to the story too, which drives the plot, and gives the spectacle enough personality that you can connect to the humans inside the robots, and therefore connect to the robots. It’s a similar trick to what Jon Favreau pulled off with Iron Man with the inside the helmet shots of Tony Stark. It’s this balance of spectacle and character which really puts the Transformer franchise to shame.

The film looks fantastic too. The CGI has improved, and by giving the robots distinct looks and traits, you actually know which one is which. DeKnight handles all the action incredibly well, and every time a fight broke out I had a huge grin on my face. The returning cast are all brilliant; Rinko Kikuchi returns as Mako Mori, in a brief but effective turn. We also have the return of Burn Gorman and Charlie Day, as Dr. Herman Gottlieb and Dr. Newton Geiszler, respectively.  These two are great fun whenever they’re on the screen, and their chemistry together is a joy to watch. The newcomers do well too. Cailee Spaeny injects an equal amount of bravado and vulnerability into a character which could have easily been too precocious. Scott Eastwood doesn’t stretch himself too far, but is charismatic and likeable. The real star of course is John Boyega. Oozing charm, and natural star power, he easily own the movie.

The main problem with this movie is that it isn’t quite as good as the first one. It gets off to a wobbly start. The first twenty minutes feels too forced, and I worried that I was going to be annoyed by the new characters. The jokes don’t seem to quite land, and the voice over felt too heavy handed. It also lacks the gravitas of the first film. Boyega’s speech isn’t as good as Elba’s cancelling the apocalypse speech, which the film kind of acknowledges. It also lacked the weight of the first film. When the pilots are moving the Jaegers in the first film it felt laborious, as if there was more of a tangible connection between man and machine. The movement in Uprising felt too light and nimble. The biggest thing of all it misses is the Del Toro touch. When I think of the first movie I think of young Mako in a blue coat walking through the wreckage of her city holding one red shoe. It was such a striking image, and sadly Uprising offers nothing as profound as this.

Uprising is an entertainingly stupid watch. A proper popcorn movie which asks you to leave your brain in the foyer, and just enjoy yourself. It’s a rollercoaster ride. It’s not going to stay with you for long afterwards, and it’s not going to change your life. It’s not even as good as the first film, but the charming cast, and the briskness in which it has been directed all amounts to an enjoyable experience. Another film is teased at the end, and I, for one, would certainly buy a ticket for that.

 

7/10