One of my favorite programs as a child was the Saturday afternoon Creature Double Feature. The program originated out of Boston, but I think it was picked up in syndication on the local stations in Maine. Or maybe Maine had a similar show with a similar title, I’m not sure. But every Saturday after the candlepin bowling show ended (yes, candlepin bowling… yes, candlepins, slender smaller pins with smaller balls… yes, I watched it… yes, it was very popular in New England back then and still is… no, really), we’d get back to back horror movies from the 1930’s to the 1970’s. Most of them were bad films that wouldn’t be called B classics, but some were true classics, and my favorites were the Toho Studios original Godzilla monster films. Thanks to Pacific Rim, I now know these monsters are called kaiju, or tokusatsu, but back then I just knew them as awesome.
As an adult, I do laundry on Sundays. While the washer and dryer are doing their things, I sit and watch bad movies. I call this Bad Movie Sunday, because I am nothing if not entirely too literal about my life. But it’s a great way of killing time and seeing stuff I probably wouldn’t bother to watch because I expect it to suck like a vampire fresh from a two hundred year lent fasting.
Well, that explains why I watched Pacific Rim Uprising this weekend, along with Rampage (which was a favorite video game of mine as a kid when arcades were still the place to be). So, let’s talk about these two films, as much as it might pain us to do so. As usual: SPOILERS AHEAD!
Pacific Rim Uprising
I watched the original Pacific Rim film after it was released and thought it was a decent film. Far better than I expected in all honesty. Nothing really new or revolutionary, certainly not a film I can look back on and say I remember much about, but good, solid, popcorn entertainment. Pacific Rim Uprising took what enjoyment we had in the first film and then crumpled it up like a cheap prop, tossed it into a trash compactor, doused it with lighter fluid, and set the whole thing on fire, toasting marshmallows by the flames as it burned.
There’s a possibility I didn’t enjoy this film.
Honestly, I need to go back and re-watch the first film. I now have doubts about whether or not I liked it based on how bad this was.
The key to a good big monster fight film (because we ain’t watching these for the Shakespearean references and clever use of motif and metaphor) is either A) great CGI that lends weight and structure to the monsters (see: most recent King Kong); or B) completely shitty people in a rubber suit pulling wrestling moves on each other in a plasterboard set made to look like some big city (see: Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster). Pacific Rim and Pacific Rim Uprising went with A, and the first movie did a pretty good job of that from what I remember. The fights felt like they were big giant robots punching (and blasting and slicing) big giant monsters. There was a ponderous feeling to the mechs, they were ginormous constructs. This newer film lost all sense of that reality, with these big giant robots doing the sort of flips and maneuvers I expect to see in Saturday morning Transformer cartoons. They spin, tumble, even roll around the outside of buildings like pinballs.
Acting is okay I suppose. Again, this is not Hamlet, so I’m not looking for the world’s greatest tragedy. Neither film blew me away, but this one had a plethora of really… ah… ham-fisted roles. Hell, the only character I even liked was the girl who built who own little Jaeger and was recruited. But I knew that Jaeger would end up playing a role at the end of the film (perfect example of Chekov’s BigAss Robot, if you prefer). John Boyega, fresh off two Star Wars films, was decent enough, but that mustache… dude, that has to go, that thing looks like the very fuzzy caterpillar is living on your upper lip. Although I started to imagine him replacing Billy Dee Williams as Lando and he’d have been pretty good in that role. With a thicker ‘stache, to be clear.
The plot is straight forward enough, except… wait, why was the former Jaeger ranger turned criminal recruited back into the Jaeger corp after being caught with illegal tech he didn’t design himself? Not really buying any of that, it was poor writing I felt. How did the young girl get enough parts (plus the heavy machinery she would have needed) to build her twenty foot tall mini-lion-robot? Errrrr… sorry, not lion, this is not Voltron. That was never explained, just “she did, cool.” I LIKED the little robot to be clear. Thought it was a neat idea to have something so small and maneuverable, even if it couldn’t hold its weight with any of the military Jaegers, or the Kaiju. But, this last part fell into my category of “sequels that decide they have to add a kid to the story line to make things more interesting and end up making a worse movie.” See: Indiana Jones, Temple of Doom; or the Mummy II.
Nothing ever really came together in this film for me. Even the part I tuned in for – monsters fighting robots – wasn’t as good as the original. On a Reynold’s wrap scale of 1 to 10, with 1 equaling the wretched 1970’s biker zombie movie “Psychomania,” and 10 equaling that first season of “The Walking Dead” when Rick is riding a horse down a freeway into devastated Atlanta, I’m gonna give this a 2. Watch the first one, skip the sequel. Unless you’re getting it for “free”, which is where I got this one.
On Saturday afternoon, tired of running around Skyrim (and oh boy, have we been running around Skyrim a TON lately. . . future post on all the mods we’ve been exploring), I decided to go watch TV and turn off my brain for a while. I ended up picking out Rampage, the movie from earlier this year based on the video game property from the 1980’s that featured giant monsters destroying city buildings (and you got to play the giant monsters).
On the one hand, I genuinely like Dwayne Johnson. He’s a really nice person in real life (or so it seems), has a great persona, and comes off on the screen as charming, likeable, and definitely one of the better actors to transition from wrestling fame into Hollywood stardom. He tends to play relatively similar characters (description of his character in every film: former military of some kind, who has a soft heart but won’t hesitate to fight for what’s right, and will save his family and friends and any animals that might be in harm’s way, and always ends up really really REALLY fucking high at some point dangling over a plunge of immense proportions which makes my palms all sweaty even though I know it’s just green screen effects but for the love of all that’s holy please stop doing that!), but he knows his wheelhouse and sticks with it. I’ve never seen a film he’s in where I didn’t enjoy his work.
On the other hand, I’ve never seen a film he’s in that blew me away. The Scorpion King, Doom, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Fast and the Furious series, Baywatch, San Andreas, Skyscraper. Some good films, some bad films, nothing that was memorable or could elevate his stardom (not that he really needs it, he’s well… pretty damned famous I hear). His voice work in Moana I loved (loved that whole film to be clear), but other than that? Mostly forgettable stuff other than “wasn’t he in a giant earthquake film?” sort of memories. I did love his all too brief turn in a Star Trek: Voyager episode, but that was more because I loved Voyager when it was on. His participation was entirely incidental to my television pleasure.
Rampage falls into the bad category, but not the “so bad it’s good” level. It’s the “even worse than bad” category, and I feel for him because he worked hard with the slim material he was given. From the crappy science that underlies the science fiction, to the hammy acting of most of the people around him (I’m looking at you Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Akerman, and Jake Lacey), to the monster cgi that left me going “meh”, to the poor representation of primatologists and using sign language to communicate with apes, there wasn’t much to love about this film. Except for that damned smile of Dwayne’s. Jesus, that man is just a god among men. Look at him? Just look! Handsome, intelligent, great smile, no longer does the eyebrow thing, looks great BALD, tall, great voice, and built like a tank. I bet he even smells good. The man is everything Arnold wanted to be and almost managed. Now if he could just get a role as juicy as Arnold’s turn in those first two Terminator movies, the world would simply explode.
Rampage: because if you paid to see this film, you probably went on one after. I’m giving it 6 out of 10 Reynolds wraps, but that’s ONLY because Dwayne Johnson is a god among men and we are not worthy of his time on this planet. Without him, the movie gets 0 stars. But I’d still watch it if it was on the Creature Double Feature.