This is a sequel that's long on action scenes and short on
character development. In the
original, two-time Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro was the Director, and
Golden Globe winner Idris Elba the star.
Their participation is sorely missed.
In the sequel, it's been ten years since the alien invasion was
successfully repulsed by the brave little band of pilots who directed
giant robots (raising their arms would raise the robot's arms, etc.)
The country remembers the great panic that ensued, but things have
settled down to normal now, even at the Academy where new cadets are
learning robot manipulation. The
big robots are now just used as drone police.
Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), the son of the war hero, leads a life
of just getting by. He
scavenges mechanical parts, and in so doing runs into a resourceful
teenager, Amara (Cailee Spaeny), who's even constructed her own “jaeger,”
or mini-robot, out of spare parts. She's
obviously got some talent, as does Jake, and their penance, when they get
caught, is that they have to
enroll in the Academy, he as an intructor and she as a cadet.
Neither seems very well-suited.
They've both got too much rebel in them, and both chafe at the
heavy-handed authoritarianism of the pseudo-military facility.
But the crisis comes when one of the “jaegers” appears to go
rogue, and attacks. Hapless
citizens fleeing in a frenzy. Whole
buildings demolished with a powerful swipe of a robotic arm.
And when our non-heroes finally jump into the fray the odds are
against them. Of course,
that's the way they like it.
Scott Eastwood (yes, Clint's son), plays a role that's unnecessary
to the plot. They had an
opportunity to develop some character interaction among Amara's class of
recruits, but don't follow up sufficiently.
They imply a possible love triangle, but don't pursue that, either.
The bad guy turns out to be a traitor from within (surprise).
But by the time we find out, there are giant robots engaged in
knock-down, drag-out boxing matches all over the earth.
Yes, there's a little bit of “Ender's Game” screenplay, in that
the most talented pilot is not necessarily on anyone's radar.
And there's also a bit of “Star Wars” type morality, where the
focal point is in individual decision whether to utilize personal talents
for the greater good. Sound
effects are notable. Battle
scenes are spectacular. But we
need a little more human connection than a petulant adult and a precocious
teenager. Saving the world has
seldom felt less triumphant.