5. Pacific Rim: Uprising
The only thing preventing the original Pacific Rim from being a generic kaiju action flick was a strong sense of style and some unique world building. Thankfully, those two elements were enough to help Pacific Rim stand out from the crowd.
With the latest entry, Del Toro’s unique visual flair is sacrificed, leaving a movie that’s almost indistinguishable from every other loud action movie with giant robots and/or monsters. With Pacific Rim: Uprising, you’re essentially getting a neutered version of the first film. It all technically works, but there’s clearly something lacking.
To be fair, the storyline isn’t all that much worse than the original movie. Both movies are undoubtedly examples of style over substance. However, it was easier to excuse the first Pacific Rim because there were so many layers in Del Toro’s vision.
Although the actual plot wasn’t groundbreaking, there was a lot going on that helped establish a movie universe that felt fresh and exciting. To be honest, Pacific Rim was such a fun watch because it paved the way for what should have been an exciting sequel. Uprising isn’t an exciting sequel because it’s directed by someone who’s unwilling to go with its predecessor’s Lovecraftian flow.
There’s a silver lining. It’s not as incomprehensibly stupid as any of the Transformers movies. The movie tells a coherent story. It just doesn’t tell one that’s all that fresh or exciting. With the first movie, that was okay because of Del Toro’s passion for creating a vibrant world.
This time around, everything takes place in a world that’s about creative as last year’s Power Rangers. Giant robots do punch things though, so there are at least some flashy fight scenes. Just don’t expect something that can’t be viewed elsewhere.
When Duncan Jones directed Moon back in 2009, all eyes were on him. The minimalist sci-fi director created something unique and special with a movie many people now deem a contemporary sci-fi masterpiece. Shortly after its release, Jones announced a spiritual successor titled Mute. This movie was put on the backburner in favor of the excellent Source Code and the so-so Warcraft, but it was never cancelled. It was just pushed year after year until 2018, when Netflix finally decided to give it an official release. Bad news, folks: it’s no Moon.
Mute’s biggest problem is that it tells two kinda-sorta connected stories that are tonally at odds. There’s the gritty revenge movie starring Alexander Skarsgård and there’s the banter-filled Quentin Tarantino homage featuring Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux.
While the two stories eventually come together, they never feel like they belong in the same movie. The latter story is undoubtedly more entertaining because these characters are more developed thanks to strong performances and occasionally engaging dialogue. That being said, neither of the contrasting stories ever truly manage to impress.
This is the number one issue, but it’s closely rivaled by something else that helps drag down the movie. Basically, there’s a whole lot going on that simply doesn’t matter. For one, Mute could be set in a contemporary setting without anything changing.
The sci-fi setting only seems to exist to enhance world building, but it serves no purpose thematically. Then there’s the mute character who doesn’t need to be mute and the pedophile character who doesn’t need to be a pedophile. Jones desperately tries to make the movie feel unique, but when none of it makes a difference, everything feels like a waste of potential.
It isn’t a complete disaster. The performances are solid, the production design is beautiful, and some of the aforementioned banter can be pretty fun. It’s just a shame that so few elements manage to click.
3. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Wow, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a dumb movie. The generic, metalcore-inspired subtitle wasn’t promising, but this thing is sillier than anyone could’ve expected. Seriously, you don’t need to turn every movie up to eleven in order to succeed. The name of the game here seems to be “bigger is better” and it doesn’t really work. It’s not as if Jurassic Park has ever been grounded in reality, but this entry in the series is a little too wild for its own good. It’s not quite Michael Bay ridiculous, but it’s close.
Over-the-top isn’t always bad, but it feels unnecessary and somehow even dull this time around. Fallen Kingdom isn’t a refreshing entry in the series. Nope, it’s just a louder and dumber entry. It’s not quite Jurassic Park III bad, but then again, few movies are.
It’s still a movie that’s hard to recommend when better blockbusters exist. Why watch this overstuffed sequel when there are options like Incredibles 2 and Ant-Man & The Wasp? They’re smarter and more fun, which means there’s not a whole lot of reason to revisit these dinos.
Superfans of the franchise may be more generous when watching the movie. Aside from the increased chaos, this is a very similar movie to the previous flicks. It mostly plays things safe even when it chooses to dial things up. Hell, some people might enjoy the wilder moments. Just keep in mind that it’s not for everyone.
2. The Cloverfield Paradox
The announcement that The Cloverfield Paradox would be viewable the day it was announced sounded like an elaborate marketing technique, but maybe it’s because Paramount (wisely) dropped it before Netflix snatched it up and worriedly released it to the masses. Yes, surprise releases have always kind of been Cloverfield’s thing, but one can’t help but think that the lack of quality might have something to do with a release as surprising as this.
Prior to the actual release, few people would be able to come to this conclusion. Given 10 Cloverfield Lane’s critical reception, it all sounded like a dream come true when fans of the franchise were given the opportunity to watch the movie within hours of its initial announcement. It was only after people sat through 100 minutes of lazy writing and shoehorned franchise-building that they realized it may not be a pleasant surprise after all.
It’s easy to dislike any movie that so frequently uses science fiction as a crutch. Any lapse in logic is immediately explained by a character babbling on about black holes or whatever scientific nonsense comes to mind. It’s obvious that next to no research was done here.
On the contrary, any of the countless scientific explanations seem tied to laziness rather than narrative cohesion. It’s as if the writers desperately needed excuses to include numerous scenes of body horror. The only explanations come from the pseudo-scientist characters who nervously babble on about sci-fi clichés that the audience is supposed to blindly accept.
Speaking of lazy writing, The Cloverfield Paradox does an even worse job than its predecessor when it comes to setting the movie in the Cloverfield universe. Like 10 Cloverfield Lane, it’s clear that this wasn’t originally supposed to be a Cloverfield movie. Unlike 10 Cloverfield Lane, there’s not enough quality to excuse the messy tie-in that happens toward the film’s finale.
Aside from two scenes, there is absolutely no sign that this is a Cloverfield movie. When it actually becomes an established part of the franchise, the writers once again decide to make some far-fetched claim about how anything is possible through science, even giant sky monsters.
It’s not just that The Cloverfield Paradox isn’t as good as the first two movies. The disappointment comes from the fact that it’s such a monstrous (pun intended) step down. When ranking the movies in the franchise, this sloppy mishmash of bad ideas is in third place by several light years. It’s almost unfair to compare it to the previous flicks because it’s that much of a step down. Basically, it’s nearly impossible to recommend.
1. A Wrinkle in Time
A Wrinkle in Time brings to mind 2010’s Alice in Wonderland adaptation in that it’s suitably quirky and visually stunning but lacking in almost every other regard. With cardboard cutout characters, a wasted cast, and an overall mishandling of the source material, A Wrinkle in Time falls flat on its face before it even has the chance to make some sort of lasting impression. Given the reputation of both the novel and director Ava DuVernay, this is the kind of disappointment that stings a little more than usual.
With how lengthy every Hollywood blockbuster is lately, it feels weird to complain about a movie being too short, but here we are. An extra half-hour and some tweaks to the overall pacing would have done wonders for this movie. The first hour is dedicated to jamming in as much exposition as possible, but it’s simply not enough. Even after the lengthy introduction reaches its conclusion, the characters remain underdeveloped.
Plenty of characters are introduced, but they’re given practically no time to show off any unique traits. By the time the plot starts moving, any attempt to develop these characters is pushed aside and replaced with a visually bombastic smorgasbord of half-hearted themes about loss and the wrongdoings of others. Unfortunately, these themes mean little when it’s nearly impossible to relate to the characters.
The awkward pacing also means that the cast has little time to actually impress viewers. There are a lot of A-listers here, but the only one who actually seems like he’s trying is Chris Pine. Meanwhile, the trio of ladies (Witherspoon, Winfrey, and Kaling) give uninspired and unenthusiastic performances.
There’s a little bit of energy coming from Witherspoon, but it’s still unimpressive considering the potential. The child actors are fine, but after seeing people like Millie Bobby Brown and Jacob Tremblay wow critics and audiences, it’s not unreasonable to want more. Most of the actors and actresses are talented performers, so it’s easy to blame the script. Still, a more pessimistic viewer may allude to a lack of passion from everyone involved.
The only silver lining is that the movie isn’t completely abysmal. Sure, the problems outlined above are very prevalent, but they don’t represent the movie in its entirety.The themes have a lot of potential to be powerful, the visuals are gorgeous, and there are undeniable moments of emotional resonance.
In other words, there are redeemable qualities, but there just aren’t enough of them. This is especially true considering the fact that the previously mentioned flaws aren’t the only ones. Other things, such as the cartoonish finale and numerous plot holes, overshadow the more positive qualities found within the movie. Overall, the biggest letdown is how much the bad outweighs the good.