Pacific Rim Uprising Review
2013’s Pacific Rim was one of the most entertaining blockbusters of that year. Born out of director Guillermo del Toro’s love of giant monsters and robots, it was an experience akin to watching a kid play with his toys, and I mean that in the best possible way. It had a wonderful sense of scale, original monster designs, and one heck of a pep talk from Idris “cancelling the apocalypse” Elba. Pacific Rim Uprising loses del Toro as director, he was a little busy making the best film of this year, so there was a worry that a sequel wouldn’t be quite as strong. But even with a few drawbacks that mean its not quite as good as the first film, there is still a lot to enjoy.
Ten years after the events of the first film, Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), son of Stacker, whose heroic sacrifice helped end the kaiju threat, is brought in by Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) to train the next generation of Jaeger pilots, including teenage tech genius Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny). A new threat is set to rise, one that may be closer to this dimension, and the rookies will have to learn fast if they’re going to be ready to stop it.
The biggest asset that Pacific Rim Uprising has is its star. John Boyega is a much more engaging and entertaining lead than Charlie Hunnam, and from the get-go Jake is full of personality, using his knowledge of Jaeger technology to live the high life outside the law. His return to duty is less a reluctant hero’s calling and more a means of avoiding jail for his latest escapades. Scott Eastwood’s Nate makes a good straight-laced foil to him and young newcomer Cailee Spaeny with her custom Jaeger Scrapper is a nice little addition, her and Boyega have a sweet sibling-like dynamic. Breakout duo Charlie Day and Burn Gorman also return from the first film and seeing them play off one another again is good fun.
The film takes itself less seriously than its predecessor, which is at times a boon but also a detriment as it lacks a certain sense of weight, both in the emotional beats and in the action. In the first film every movement the Jaegers made felt like these gargantuan and epic moments, here it’s more akin to Transformers, only better. The new Jaegers have some creative touches, Guardian Bravo’s laser whip is particularly cool, and visually there is little fault to be found in the set pieces.
There comes a point around the second act where the film takes one heck of a sudden left turn, and it is most welcome. It ups the stakes, it builds on things from the first film, and whilst it does all lead to a big final fight in Tokyo (poor Tokyo) that fight is at least different to what we’ve seen before. Its attempts to end on a similar moment of personal victory as the previous film, ends up instead a little awkward, but what is interesting is the potential wider threads that could be taken up if a third film is made.
Pacific Rim Uprising is a little on the cheesy side and it is not as good as the first one, but it sets itself apart from the carbon copy sequel formula, and there is a good amount of fun to be had here. Solid sci-fi-mecha action.