Writing Movie “WRONGS”
By Jim West
Pacific Rim: Uprising
Directed by Steven S. DeKnight
Written by Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, Steven S. DeKnight and T.S. Nowlin
Back in 2013, Guillermo del Toro gave us the first Pacific Rim film that begged for a sequel. The first film had some heart and a decent emotional core to the story to run alongside huge robots called Jaegers fighting even bigger monsters called Kaiju. Now in 2013 the film benefited from a solid casting of Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost. In this film we get John Boyega playing Stacker’s son Jake. Boyega has a great run of films since Star Wars and a film featuring big monsters and robots duking it out sure seems fun, but with four writers on this film they lost sight of the heart in the huge robots.
Here comes the spoilers.
Film opens with getting us quickly introduced to Jake Pentecost, the son of the great war hero Stacker Pentecost. Now Jake makes it clear in opening dialogue that he is NOT his father. Please let me repeat that for you; HE IS NOT HIS FATHER. Okay got it Jake. Let’s see you continue to face the expectations of your deceased father and those who still see you standing still in his long shadow cast by his greatness. Do we get the emotional payoff for this plot point? Nay. Instead we get to be treated to several sub-plots involving a girl who managed to build her own Jaeger and of course we need no explanation as to how she accumulated all the resources like equipment and power sources to run her operation to build her jaeger. Yet let us move past that lack of a real backstory, and focus on the misfits of cadets who we already know will be thrust into battle to help save the day. Most are so forgettable as the films plot tries to crank up the pace with the deployment of drone Jaegers; which of course have to be the eventual bad guys and voila! They eventually are, but quickly get dealt with instead of using this as a catalyst to restart a new war where scrapyard jaegers from around the world have to assemble to help the world take down these new kaiju brain controlled jaegers. For me this was a huge missed opportunity to go darker in the storyline. Terribly missed opportunity here. Even when one of the cadets dies, it is largely glossed over with no emotional impact. This just proves the point of too much story in a film. Four writers crammed too much story and sub plots that they missed a huge overall arc opportunity for sake of a clean bow tie at the end of the film. Sometimes you need the good guys to take a loss to setup a proper sequel. Take a cue from the Terminator series, or even The Empire Strikes Back (arguably among the top films in the Star Wars series) where the bad guys clearly win. This would leave audiences expecting a sequel and give these cadets some more screen time to develop them so when they do die it matters.
My only other issue with the film is how little the jaegers have advanced in the ten years (story timeline) since the last film ended. It would have been nice to see them improve upon the jaeger designs and weaponry with is still largely melee based. Sad. In a world of lasers and energy beams we still have to use whips, chains, and swords.
In closing, the writers need to rethink the stories overall arc and consider letting the bad guys win. Setup some emotional payoffs with characters who matter. Then show the audience the emotional core inside the jaegers and you have a film worth several more sequels.
Thanks for reading Writing Movie ‘WRONGS’.