Pacific Rim Uprising isn’t as good as the first one, but it’s a fun movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously with plenty of giant monsters versus giant robot fun.
Director: Steven S. DeKnight
Summary: Jake Pentecost, son of Stacker Pentecost, reunites with Mako Mori to lead a new generation of Jaeger pilots, including rival Lambert and 15-year-old hacker Amara, against a new Kaiju threat.
The first Pacific Rim movie came out in 2013 and garnered a moderate domestic box office and a pretty good overall worldwide box office. The fanbase was small but fiercely devoted to the movie that was essentially Guillermo del Toro dumping a box of action figures on the carpet and smashing them together. A sequel was announced, then delayed, and when it was announced that it was finally happening fans were overjoyed. Now that the movie is finally out, are those same fans going to be happy with what appears on screen?
More or less. Pacific Rim Uprising isn’t a great movie, and it lacks some of the things that made the first one so special. Director Steven S. DeKnight abandoned the nighttime and neon colors for the fight scenes in favor of bright days so we can see all the details. He’s also made the jaegers much easier to move around in. The first movie really gave the feeling that the robots were an insane concept, but they moved how we expected a giant robot to move within our own reality. These jaegers move a lot more like extensions of humans, with a lot of flips and crazy moves. The robots are a lot brighter with bigger and crazier weapons as compared to the jaegers we saw in the original. The kaiju, however, do maintain their weird designs as if someone smashed a bunch of body parts together to create a giant monster (which makes sense considering how the kaiju are created).
One of the big missteps, however, is in the character beats. One of the things that made the first movie so refreshing were the various characters. Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam) might have been our buff and handsome leading man, but once he laid eyes on Mako Mori ( Rinko Kikuchi) he proceeded to follow her around like a very muscular golden retriever begging for treats. Most of the original cast is missing in this movie with only Mako and scientists Newt (Charlie Day) and Hermann (Burn Gorman) making their returns. We have a bunch of new people hanging around, but this movie doesn’t focus as much on the human connection between the pilots as the first one did. The first movie made a big deal about the drift compatibility of the pilots, while this one brushes past that part of the world as if it’s not a big deal anymore.
Our cast of new characters are all around not bad at all. Scott Eastwood is doing his best “tough military guy” impression, but he also talks a lot about making sure to work as a group as compared to a rogue agent. John Boyega gives real heart to Jake Pentecost, the unmentioned son of Idris Elba‘s Stacker Pentecost. Some of the best moments in the movie are when we get a glimpse of Mako and Jake being brother and sister, but they are few and far between. That being said, fans of Mako should probably lower their expectations of her character. They, unfortunately, don’t give her much to do. Jing Tian makes a real impression as a business woman looking to replace the jaegers with drone, and the young cast, including newcomer Cailee Spaeny, act like what you would expect a bunch of teenagers in the science fiction equivalent of the junior ROTC would.
The story is also pretty engaging, though there might be a bit too much going on. A lot of the world-building is left to a montage at the beginning, but it is interesting to see what everyone is basically expecting the kaiju to return instead of assuming they won. There are some fun concepts that appear throughout that have a couple of interesting twists on the mythology and what we could expect from a sequel.
Pacific Rim Uprising isn’t the smartest movie in the world, and it lacks some of the heart of the original — but it is a ton of fun to see giant monsters fighting giant robots again. There is a pretty obvious setup for a third movie, and if this one does well, the third one could be completely bananas in the best possible way.
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