Pacific Rim is kind of a weird movie. People either are totally apathetic to it, or love it to death. The sequel, directed by Steven S DeKnight rather than Oscar winner Guillermo Del Toro, doesn’t quite have the same cult factor to it – but if you’re looking for some ridiculously over the top city-smashing, robot on monster action, this is the film for you.
Pacific Rim: Uprising is kind of odd for a sequel. Because the original film’s star, Charlie Hunnam, wasn’t available, the decision was made to take Uprising ten years into the future. With John Boyega joining the series as Jake Pentecost, the son of Idris Elba’s General Stacker Pentecost, it’s essentially Pacific Rim: The Next Generation.
Despite being so far removed from its predecessor, Uprising still relies on you having a decent knowledge of the original film. While I’ve seen the first film, my last viewing of it was a couple of years ago, and I still found myself getting lost on some of the more esoteric plot points. I feel my impression of the film would have been at least a little improved if I had rewatched Pacific Rim recently.
If you watch a lot of action movie sequels, the premise of Uprising is pretty familiar. Our heroes saved the world back in the first film, we thought everything was finally at peace, but now the threat is back (and bigger than ever!) The sequel expands on the mysterious alien race responsible for sending Kaiju to battle on Earth, with the characters needing to examine what these aliens want and what their end goal is.
While ostensibly the movie is helmed by John Boyega and Scott Eastwood in the leading roles, Eastwood ends up taking a backseat to Cailey Spaeny playing Amara, a scrappy orphan pulled off the streets and into the PPDC’s Jaeger program alongside a team of other young pilots in training. With the Kaiju presumed gone, however, it’s not quite clear what the Jaegers actually do – though one is shown early in the film essentially acting as law enforcement.
Of the original cast, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day and Burn Gorman have returned. The latter two play a major role again as Kaiju and Jaeger experts Hermann Gottlieb and Newt Geiszler, while Kikuchi as Mako Mori mainly has to sell to the audience that she really is Boyega’s adoptive sister.
If I was to pick Uprising‘s biggest flaw, it would probably this oversaturation of characters. You have the entire team of Jaeger pilots in training. You have Jake Pentecost facing his father’s legacy. You have Scott Eastwood’s Nate Lambert who feels like he only exists to be the antithesis of Boyega’s party boy character. You have the scientists. You have the addition of a big tech corporation with its own scientists and engineers. You have Adria Arjona as Jules, a character who seems to only exist to flirt with both Jake and Nate at random intervals – the most abortive and rushed attempt at romantic tension I’ve seen in a long time.
In attempting to give all of these characters their own arcs in the 111 minute run time, most of them fall flat or are never even resolved at all. At multiple points Uprising makes the fatal mistake of trying to add tension through endangering a character we don’t really know well enough to feel any kind of urgency for. That being said, I did very much enjoy newcomer Jing Tian as Liwen Shao, essentially the Pacific Rim universe’s version of Elon Musk if he were a woman. And far better dressed.
Despite the huge cast, the movie often feels like a shameless vehicle for John Boyega and his wise-cracking party boy Jake, but seeing as he has by far the most personality of any of Uprising‘s many characters, I’m not sure this is always a bad thing. The film’s humor is sometimes misplaced and occasionally awkward, but most of it hits fairly well.
But who watches Pacific Rim for the characters, right? If it’s action you’re after, Uprising is the perfect movie to shut your brain off and just enjoy some wanton destruction. This time the monsters are bigger, the Jaegers are upgraded and quips are quippier than ever.
If you’re after realism, this isn’t the movie for you. Buildings in the Pacific Rim universe appear to be made of paper, considering the ease with which you can throw a giant robot through about four of them at once. The movie also seemed to avoid the real-world consequences of the destruction it revels in showing, often throwing out hand waving excuses like “luckily everyone got into the underground shelters in time!” In fact, the most realistic moment in Uprising was seeing that future Sydney still runs the exact same trains we do today.
If you want to see an entire city leveled in a matter of minutes, however, you’re going to love it. I have to admit, seeing Sydney’s cameo in an action movie of this scale was a little bit exciting, especially when it became the arena for a battle between two giant overpowered robots.
While I could easily continue to nitpick Pacific Rim: Uprising‘s many plot holes and weird character decisions, it was still a pretty satisfying action movie that I enjoyed more than most action movies. It’s certainly no masterpiece, but it’s the most fun film I’ve watched about robots fighting giant monsters in a long time.
Pacific Rim: Uprising hit Australian Cinemas March 22.