Pacific Rim: Uprising
Steven S. DeKnight
Steven S. DeKnight, Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, T.S. Nowlin
1 h 51 min
John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny, Burn Gorman, Charlie Day, Tian Jing, Max Zhang, Adria Arjona, Rinko Kikuchi, Karan Brar, Wesley Wong, Ivanna Sakhno, Mackenyu, Lily Ji, Shyrley Rodrgiguez, Rahart Adams, Levi Meaden, Dustin Clare
PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language
Buy on DVD/Blu-ray
Guillermo del Toro films have always had a core of warmth and humanity to them that make them stand apart from the more commonplace genre fare at the cineplex. While the original Pacific Rim was a bit on the outskirts of del Toro’s resume, it nevertheless felt like an inventive bundle of joy with an appreciation for storytelling with a monstrous bent. For Pacific Rim: Uprising, the emphasis is on the action and the spectacle. Giant robots fighting giant monsters to save the world. It’s like a Transformers film, but with more diversity, more compassion, and a significantly more compelling story at its heart, but one that gets lost amidst the action.
Years after the events of the first film, some cities have been rebuilt while others have languished as lawless environments where survival is built on a bartering system. It’s a socio-political clime worth exploring, but which is jettisoned after its thrilling, if modestly facile opening chase sequence is concluded.
From there, we learn that a Chinese firm, led by company founder Liwen Shao (Tian Jing) has developed a series of remote drone Jaegers (the giant robots) that will make obsolete the slow-to-deploy behemoths of the past. At the heart of this technological advancement is one of two main carry-overs from the original film, scientist Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day). Meanwhile, his fellow prior-film colleague, Herman Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) has developed his own solution, a rocket thruster meant to launch the Jaegers anywhere faster than the helicopter-borne method currently used.
The core of the plot is that someone is attempting to reopen the rifts to the other dimension and bring more Kaiju (the giant monsters) into our plane so they can finally enact the plan they had originally envisioned. The details of the this plot as it unwinds in the film would be most fascinating elements if they weren’t poorly handled as the film moves along.
John Boyega leads a banal cast of young actors who must face down the onslaught with bravery and conviction. Minor exploratory details of some of their pasts make for synopsis reading in the film giving us little information about the vast majority of characters. Boyega’s Jake Pentecost, son of Idris Elba’s character from the first film, is one of two that get some depth of focus. The other is co-lead Cailee Spaeny (Amara Namani), who is the film’s lone stand-out among performers.
Also along for the ride is Clint Eastwood’s son Scott who seems to be present as a foil/support for Boyega’s character and who is referred to as attractive, which might be his sole reason for even being there. That Oscar nominee Rinko Kikuchi, a third minor return from the original, is given short shrift, suggests that most of the characters exist merely as vain stereotypes given simplistic narrative focus that evaporates once the action comes into full focus.
For a fan of Guillermo del Toro’s original vision, the sequel is a disappointment. It jettisons much of what we loved about its 2013 predecessor. While that original had its problems and the sequel does as well, there’s still a joyful appreciation of loud action, exciting adventures, and thrilling resolutions as the film progresses. Notably happier than del Toro’s film, Pacific Rim: Uprising still lacks the wit, imagination, and joy that we had hoped would return.
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