23rd March 2018
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.
Steven S. DeKnight
John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny
In 2013, Idris Elba aimed to put a stop to the apocalypse with a defiant speech in Guillermo del Toro’s robots vs monsters Battle Royale Pacific Rim (check out The Movie Bastard’s review of it here). Evidently, the ‘cancellation’ was more of a delay as the gigantic creatures known as Kaiju’s threaten our world once again in Pacific Rim: Uprising, a film which compromises on the vibrant style and solid backstory seen in del Toro’s original to set its focus on a lighter tone and citywide destruction in which its premise promises.
Jake Pentecost (John Boyega, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) is a once-promising Jaeger pilot and son of the legendary captain Stacker Pentecost, must reteam with his half-sister Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), a young hacker named Amara and a group of new Jaeger pilot recruits to face a wave of increased intelligence Kaiju. It’s not only otherworldly behemoths that pose a threat – the advancement of drone technology means the use of humans as pilots is becoming more and more obsolete, and the small group must prove their worth if they are to save their careers and, more importantly, world.
Pacific Rim: Uprising takes a little time to get its gears greased, but when it does build up enough steam the action rolls thick and fast. Gone are the range of themes del Toro included in his tale (a long list of which can be found here) and there’s no defining visual style present in Uprising. To his credit, however, first-time feature director Steven S. DeKnight, whose previous directing credits consist of seven TV episodes, displays an impressive degree of control over the action set pieces. The battles never become too indistinguishable, which is no small feat considering the gargantuan size of the participants and the metropolitan arenas they brawl in. Pacific Rim: Uprising certainly doesn’t have the same artistic flair as its predecessor but it follows through on its assurance of Jaeger and Kaiju carnage, especially in its pacey third act. The Jaeger’s are more fluent in motion than the clunky mechanical machines seen in Pacific Rim and their foes are far more fierce.
There are a few occasions where it appears he’s taken a few lessons from the School of Michael Bay, and the setup for the showdowns is uncannily reminiscent of those seen in Saturday morning cartoons and kids TV shows (think Power Rangers and Godzilla), but overall the colossal clashes which completely crush cities are gloriously satisfying – although it does make you wonder why they still bother making skyscrapers in the future if the threat of monsters three times the size of them could strike at any minute.
While it’s set in the future, Pacific Rim: Uprising‘s under-the-hood mechanics are firmly stuck in the past. Everything about the plot and the character types was due to for a service about 20 years ago, but they rumble on regardless getting us from A to B to Fiji.There’s the rebellious son who disappointed his father but deep down still wants to impress him, the multi-cultural group of ragtag rookies (one of which, a Russian, isn’t too pleased with another cadet’s seemingly easy way into the Pilot Academy when they feel like they’ve had to work twice as hard for it), the meatheaded Ranger (named Lambert and played by Scott Eastwood) with a grudge against Pentecost and the tech company who ignores all the warning signs and puts too much trust in sentient beings. Storytelling doesn’t get much more primitive than this, but then again neither does wanting to see massive robots punch the snot from even bigger monsters that have appeared from a crack in the ocean, so it’s swings and roundabouts really.
Apart from Boyega, the acting creaks louder than a Jaeger’s rusted joints. Boyega isn’t exemplary either, but he delivers his lines with more conviction than most other cast members; largely due to the fact that he’s producing this thing too. Charlie Day returns as Dr. Newton Geisler and is thankfully less annoying than usual, while Burn Gorman goes OTT as the brainy researcher and Giesler’s friend Hermann Gottlieb. Given that it’s her first major role, Cailey Spaeny exhibits glimpses of a promising future as the 15-year-old hacker Amara but she’s going to need something more substantial to really prove her mettle.
Pacific Rim: Uprising may disappoint fans of the original by removing the del Toro powered core, but if it was more of the rock-em, sock-em robotic action you were after then Uprising undoubtedly rises to the occasion.
Delivers on its promise of overblown action set pieces
Made for pure entertainment and succeeds
Has almost no trace of del Toro's influence seen in the first movie
Outdated story mechanics