Turns out the Apocalypse has been renewed.
Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018) is an action/sci-fi sequel to Pacific Rim written and directed by Steven S. Deknight. It stars John Boyega as Jake Pentecost, son of Stacker Pentecost, who is forced to re-enlist in the Jaeger defence program to train the next generation of pilots including plucky mechanic Amara (Cailee Spaeny) just as a new threat emerges on Earth.
Let’s air this straight from the beginning – I adore the first Pacific Rim. Irrespective of its many many problems, it is one of my guiltiest pleasures and is just as spectacularly cinematic every time I revisit it. That mean’t the possibility of continuing the franchise with Uprising was a tantalising prospect, and while Del Toro’s magical touch from the first film is sorely missed, this is still the ludicrously entertaining (albeit deeply flawed) spectacle-fest that Pacific Rim should be.
The story is nothing great, but is marginally more complex than the first film’s and contains enough excuses to watch giant Jaegers fight giant Kaiju. There’s even a few surprise twists thrown in for good measure – some that work, some that don’t – but it all contributes to a plot just deep enough to still be called a story – but only just. What the film does do a great job of is expanding the well-established mythology of the first film and new and frankly rather cool ways. If Pacific Rim set the foundation, then consider Uprising the peculiar and somewhat nonsensical postmodern architecture built on top of it. It may be a little shaky and doesn’t use the foundation the as well as it could, but that doesn’t stop it being interesting to look at.
Another plus this film arguably has over the first is a better protagonist. A one-to-one comparison of charisma between John Boyega and Charlie Hunnam is going to see Boyega win with one arm strapped behind his back, and even though (again, much like the first film) there’s very little to his character Boyega’s screen presence more than makes up for it. The rest of the newcomers however are a bit of a mixed bag. Cailee Spaeny is a refreshing addition as Amara and has great chemistry with Boyega, but Blandy Mcblandface, errr I mean Scott Eastwood, tries to challenge Hunnam for most boring white guy in the franchise and succeeds with the barest of attempts. Returning cast members such as Rinko Kikuchi and Burn Gorman are at least welcome sights but don’t contribute much to the film at all, and Charlie Day reprising his role as annoying scientist #1 (i.e. Newton because of course there’s a scientist called Newton) is frankly insufferable. I barely tolerated his performance in the first film but here he’s asked to do some things that are painfully out of his wheelhouse and have the impact of a quiet fart.
But now lets get to the stuff that everyone is actually interested in – the action. And its good! Unlike the first film which often felt obscured by night or rain, this movie puts all the action front and centre in broad daylight for better or worse. It doesn’t have the same sense of scale (or style honestly, Del Toro you are missed) but still brings in enough cool new gadgets and Jaeger designs to make things interesting. There’s also a hell of a lot more of it compared to the first film, which is a welcome addition considering the entire franchise is built on that spectacle. Lets just say if the mech v. monsters fighting is your sole motivation to see this movie, you won’t leave disappointed.
All in all, Pacific Rim: Uprising delivers exactly what you’d expect from a Pacific Rim sequel. Big, dumb fun plastered together by a thin story and some great spectacle, any lovers of the first film (like me) will be sure to miss Del Toro’s distinct touch, but will still get enough of what they were looking for to be satisfied… maybe even enough to see the Apocalypse renewed for a second time.
General Audiences: Recommended
Film Buffs: Not Recommended