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Pacific Rim Uprising
Steven S DeKnight makes an inauspicious feature film directorial debut with a soulless and bombastic sequel, which has been crudely bolted together using spare parts from Transformers and Independence Day: Resurgence. Lorne Balfe's thunderous orchestral score competes with cacophonous sound effects to make us wince in our seats from the opening titles. The discomfort intensifies when characters open their mouths to spew risible exchanges that pass for dialogue. The film's gleaming hardware is impressive: hulking, digitally rendered robots cutting a swathe through the toppling skyscrapers of Tokyo with flame-licked swords, or grappling above and below the cracking ice of a Siberian wilderness. In the heat of battle, it's not easy to recall which human pilots are inside each colour-coded automaton so there is no sense of jeopardy as metallic fists clatter into welded jaws. When it comes to the software of a malfunctioning script credited to four writers, Pacific Rim Uprising is in dire need of upgrades. Character development is laughable and pivotal deaths barely register an emotional ripple. Comical interludes fall flat with a joyless thud, including John Boyega's attempts to wisecrack like Will Smith as the arrogant hero of the hour. "This face is set up well," he grins self-approvingly. The same cannot be said for DeKnight's picture. Ten years after the Pan Pacific Defense Corps (PPDC) unleashed an army of Jaegers - 25-storey tall robots operated by mind-melded human pilots - to defeat gargantuan alien creatures known as Kaiju, humanity has become complacent. Former pilot Jake Pentecost (Boyega), whose father General Stacker (Idris Elba) gave his life to protect the world, is contacted by estranged older sister, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi). She implores him to return to the PPDC to head off the threat posed by Liwen Shao (Jing Tian), slippery chief executive of Shao Industries, who intends to replace the current generation of Jaegers with unmanned drones. Haunted by ghosts of the past, Jake agrees and he mentors a spunky 15-year-old cadet called Amara (Cailee Spaeny), whose family were crushed to death during a Kaiju attack. An insidious new threat emerges from the ocean and Jake and fellow pilot Lambert (Scott Eastwood) sprint into action while technical geniuses Dr Newt Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Dr Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) identify the aliens' weak spot. Pacific Rim Uprising is hard-wired with hoary cliches. Stirring battle cries for humanity to vanquish the otherworldly aggressors are randomly generated from countless better war films. Screen chemistry between Boyega and Eastwood is inert and a clumsily inserted object of lust for both men, played by Mexican actress Adria Arjona, is painfully misjudged when real-life battle cries off camera are for parity not objectification. A soap opera coda makes clear that film-makers intend to power up the Jaegers again if the sequel is a success. Pull the plug now.