Hot Take: Your typical bigger, louder and not necessarily better action sequel. However, Pacific Rim Uprising seemed to know what it was which was somehow very comforting.
At some point, someone will get the idea to adapt Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots into a feature-length motion picture. (If you’re doubting that as a possibility, see the abomination that is 2012’s Battleship.) Basically, though, it already happened with Pacific Rim Uprising, the unnecessary sequel to Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim which released to mixed reviews and mixed box office results in 2013. Poor attendance in the U.S. did not stop Pacific Rim from cashing in overseas leading to a $400+ million worldwide box office. Okay, maybe the sequel does make sense when you think of it in those terms. Guillermo del Toro was originally slated to write and direct the sequel but eventually, his script was scrapped and a new director, Steven S. DeKnight (for his feature film debut), was brought in. The result is a somewhat campy adrenaline rush of an action flick that knows it’s a somewhat campy adrenaline rush on an action flick. And that’s okay.
Starring John Boyega as Jake Pentecost, the son of Kaiju War hero Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba in the first film), Pacific Rim Uprising takes place 10 years after the Battle of the Breach. Jake makes a living stealing and selling Jaeger parts on the black market but during one raid of an old Jaeger base, Jake crosses paths with Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny), a young Jaeger enthusiast stealing parts from old Jaegers to build her own. The pair both end up on the run from the police and both get arrested by the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps. PPDC General Secretary Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) who also happens to be Jake’s adopted sister, throws the two of them into the PPDC training program with Jake forced to become an instructor and Amara a recruit. Jake, already thrown out of the program once, must reunite with his original partner Nate (Scott Eastwood) while Amara must find a way to earn the respect of her new teammates. Meanwhile, the program is threatened by another tech company’s invention of Jaeger drones.
Any additional details and it’s spoiler territory. There’s lots of robot fighting, lots of verbal jousting from the old partners who initially have an icy relationship but must find a way to work together and some fun, flashy visual effects. Charlie Day returns as Dr. Newton Geiszler as does Burn Gorman who plays Dr. Hermann Gottlieb. The rest of the cast is new, also. (Kikuchi is a returnee, too, but that’s it.) The action scenes are well done and Boyega continues to impress when given the opportunity but this sequel isn’t much more than a mindless blend of a generic action sequel plot and nostalgic references to the first film. It’s even harder for a film like this to separate itself from the endless Transformers sequels and Pacific Rim Uprising doesn’t do enough to make you wonder if this film’s script somehow borrowed from a few tossed scripts DeKnight found while working in the franchise’s writer’s room.
Pacific Rim Uprising is a breezy 111 minutes of robot fighting, testosterone-infused head butting and tongue-in-cheek dialog that typically goes too far making this film more cheesy than campy, if you can understand why one of those is better than the other. Even if you find most of the characters forgettable, it’s unlikely Boyega’s performance will have the same effect as he delivers the most memorable work of anyone in the cast. It’s easy to buy the potential of a third installment if Boyega is attached and there’s plenty of hints dropped of that possibility, if you were wondering. Before that inevitable third flick, you still have time to catch Pacific Rim Uprising in theaters which with all of the action packed into it, might be worth it if you have any intentions of seeing this potential trilogy through to the end. It won’t kill you if you skip it though, either.
You enjoyed the first one. Or John Boyega is your spirit animal. (Okay, maybe you just had to enjoy his work in Star Wars.)
You saw the first one and thought, “Please don’t make another one of these!” Or you cringe every time a Transformers sequel flashes it’s way onto a basic cable station.