TL;DR – Bombastic as always, but it doesn’t set itself apart from what came before, and the story struggles to find its voice.
Score – 3 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is a post title scene at the start of the credits
As we talked about in our look back at the first Pacific Rim (see review), I was a real big fan of the original. Guillermo del Toro’s film about giant monsters called Kaijus attacking the cities around the Pacific Ocean being stopped by giant mechas called Jaegers. There was something easy and yet compelling with the setup and the world they created. With Pacific Rim Uprising we get more of the same as the first film yet somehow it feels like something got lost along the way, and that, unfortunately, it just does not work as well as the first film. So with that in mind, we are going to dive into Pacific Rim Uprising to look at what worked and what didn’t.
So to set the scene, it has been 10 years since the end of Pacific Rim and in all that time the rift at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean has never reopened, but the world remains vigilant. While many of the coastal cities have rebuilt, and it looks like they took down that silly wall, the legacy of the war with Kaijus still remains. However, just because there has been no incursion does not mean the world is sitting back, the Jaeger program is still going strong with new and more powerful mechas being built all the time to make sure the world is prepared for the next attack.
In this lull, we are introduced to Jake Pentecost (Jake Pentecost), the son of the great Stacker Pentecost from the first film. He was a Jaeger pilot but was fired from the program and now spends his time stealing things in the ruins of Los Angeles. The one thing the Pan-Pacific Defence Corps does not like you doing is trying to build your own Jaeger, which of course is why stealing from a Jaeger decommissioning plant is so lucrative. Everything was going to plan until they got to the room with the power housing and found it to be empty, with the tech on the move. Jake tracks the missing part to Amara Namani’s (Cailee Spaeny) bunker, while she may be a teenager, she has also built her own Jaeger, though just a small one. Well, the PPDC track Jake and Amara down and his adoptive sister, now Secretary General, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) gives him a choice, go to jail or be the Jaeger pilot she knows he is. While this is happening there is a debate about replacing Jaeger pilots with Liwen Shao (Jing Tian) and Dr Newt Geiszler’s (Charlie Day) drones, and Dr Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) feels that something is clearly amiss. Now as we jump into looking at the rest of the film, just a warning that there may be some [SPOILERS] coming up.
Before I dive into the film and some of its issues I do want to say that there is a lot that the film does get right. The visuals, much like the first film, Uprising are a treat to the eyes with some gorgeous creature creation as well as some of the best mecha designs in modern cinema. Not only are the designs like Gipsy Avenger really good, they really hold up in the action sequences, which are all really well framed and designed. I think the highlight for me was the battle in Sydney, though that just might because the movie was filmed in my home city of Brisbane, hey I finally get what you go through Vancouver. So the film builds upon everything that worked well in the first film and amplifies it in the second. Now when this is happening the film is at its best, unfortunately, this is not the sum of Pacific Rim Uprising.
The big issue that the film has is that it has lost its own identity and slips from being a homage to the mecha and Kaiju films of the past to feeling more like a combination of other films smashed together. So it feels less like Pacific Rim 2 and more a film with Pacific Rim smashed together with Star Trek, Independence Day Resurgence, and Transformers: The Last Knight, and two out of the three of those films are not great sources of inspiration. Now in many respects Uprising works a lot better than say The Last Knight, however, you just can’t help but see those same plot beats repeated over and over again.
This flows into the writing and character development which at times is lazy and other times feels over bloated. The film is filled with unnecessary character conflicts just for the sake of there being conflict. For example, I’m not going to like you because I had to work to get her and you got dropped in because you had friends in high places. Or we use to be friends until you got kicked out, now I don’t like your unprofessionalism. Or your objectivity is in question because you married the chunk of Kaiju brain that you drifted with, ok wait no that last one is quite unique. To add to this, there are characters like Jules Reyes (Adria Arjona) and most of the other cadets who unfortunately feel superfluous to the story, and it feels like a number of the themes of the first film have been pushed aside. As well as this, if you understand anything about China and their role in modern media, a lot of the twists will be very clearly foreshadowed. Also, I’m not sure the film had a great sense of the last film, or Japanese geography, and the fact that someone would have nuked that sucker.
Now, what mitigates a lot of these issues is the casting. John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day & Burn Gorman all have amazing charisma and for the most part, the film just lets them do their thing. So yes you have the friendly/not-that-friendly rivalry of John Boyega & Scott Eastwood’s characters that feels rehashed, but because of their sheer force of will it kind of works. As well as this, watching Charlie Day & Burn Gorman riff off each other is always a delight.
So in the end, do we recommend Pacific Rim Uprising? Well, yes, sort off. Look if you are here for giant monster/mecha battles you are going to get it, and they are really well produced and filmed. As well as this, there are some great character moments at play here that were a delight to watch. It is just a little disappointing that everything else around those things just feels like a rehash of something we have seen before.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Pacific Rim Uprising
Directed by – Steven S. DeKnight
Story by – Steven S. DeKnight & T.S. Nowlin
Screenplay by – Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, Steven S. DeKnight & T.S. Nowlin
Based on – Characters created by Travis Beacham
Music by – Lorne Balfe
Cinematography by – Dan Mindel
Edited by – Dylan Highsmith & Zach Staenberg
Starring – John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Jing Tian, Jin Zhang, Adria Arjona, Karan Brar, Wesley Wong, Ivanna Sakhno, Mackenyu, Lily Ji, Shyrley Rodriguez, Rahart Adams & Levi Meaden
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13