Pacific Rim Uprising

Studio: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Jun 20, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Jake Pentecost (Star Wars’ John Boyega) is the hitherto-unmentioned son of Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba’s character), a hero of the great war against the kaijus who sacrificed himself canceling the apocalypse at the end of the original Pacific Rim. He’s inherited his father’s gifts as a jaeger pilot, except naturally it’s one of those gifts our hero regards as something of a burden – he’d rather spend his time trading salvaged jaeger parts for Oreos in the rubble of Santa Monica. When he’s caught by the authorities near the beginning of this undeniably underwhelming sequel, he’s able to avoid incarceration by returning to his post in the jaeger branch of the military and helping train new cadets to pilot the leftover giant robots with his former co-pilot (Scott Eastwood). Of course, this puts him exactly where he needs to be when the kaijus inevitably return.

Meanwhile, plucky orphan Amara (newcomer Cailee Spaeny) pieces together her own adorable, pint-sized jaeger from scraps – you just have to accept the idea that the pinnacle of human military innovation can be improved upon by an intrepid teenager – and puts up a pretty badass fight against a full-size police jaeger. She’s caught, too, and sent to the same pilot school as Jake, where she's dropped into a multinational class of equally angst-ridden adolescents apparently well-equipped to become the next generation of kaiju-killing jaeger-meisters. (Unlike the original movie, where it was rare for anyone but family members to be drift-compatible, Uprising takes a cue from the anime cliché where the main requirements for piloting a three-story mecha are to be  angry and juuuuuust barely post-pubescent.)

There are more subplots, of course – they’re needed to occupy the unnecessarily large cast of characters and frustrate viewers who tuned in hoping to see nothing more than ugly sea monsters get punched in the gullets by super-sized robot warriors. There’s a suspicious businesswoman eager to employ a fleet of drone jaegers and put the dozen or so pilots on Earth out of work. There’s a foxy instructor who really only exists to provide a third point in a love triangle with Jake and his co-pilot rival. The only returning characters who appear for the entire length of the film are Doctors Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Gottlieb (Burn Gorman), the first movie’s comic relief and the sequel’s primary plot-drivers.

Pacific Rim Uprising’s story is a half-boiled mess. Ideas and relationships are introduced only to disappear and never be seen again; plot twists come out of nowhere, not to shock or truly surprise the audience but make them wonder, “Wait, what? Really?” Worst of all, the movie drags whenever giant robots aren’t on the screen, as if anyone cares about the petty, sub-Top Gun pissing matches at flight school, political arguments about drones, or whether our generic teenage heroine learns to make friends and pilot her jaeger real good. (Uprising commits the same sin as Michael Bay’s Transformers movies: assuming that, despite robot battles being a viable option, we’d rather spend our time watching Shia LaBeouf and Mark effing Wahlberg.)

The first Pacific Rim was an exhaustingly awesome movie that knew it was kind of dumb and didn’t care. Pacific Rim Uprising has little to no idea just how stupid it is. At the very least, when it remembers it’s a movie about monsters and robots, Uprising puts on an admirable show. While not as exciting as the first movie’s – no kaiju are walloped upside the head with battleships – they give fans enough reason to tune in. Amara’s teeny jaeger puts on a cool fight with a towering model, we get some sexy robot-on-robot action when the still goofily-named Gipsy Danger squares off against a rogue jaeger, and when it comes time for our heroes to re-cancel the apocalypse, the stakes are appropriately high and the battle itself sufficiently kickass. Pacific Rim Uprising is not a good movie at all, but if you – like this reviewer – still consider the first film one of the most the fun and original action/science fiction films of the last decade, it’s not a top-to-bottom waste of time. Just go in with very, very tempered expectations. 


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June 30th 2018

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