Back in 2013, a few friends told me about the awesomeness that was Pacific Rim. Prior to those recommendations, I was mostly incredulous of what appeared to be a mix of Transformers and Godzilla.
Even with the thought of Guillermo Del Toro heading the project, I still needed to be dragged to the theater (yes, for what appeared to be a mix of Transformers and Godzilla). But once I got there, I saw a fun, visually appealing action film, with high rewatchability. Fast forward 5 years, and those same friends weren’t dragging me to the theater to watch its sequel, and Del Toro wasn’t there to rescue me either.
Pacific Rim: Uprising is the skim atop your cooling soup: an unnecessary goop spoiling your appetizing meal.
The film is set 10 years after the Battle of the Breach, Kaijus seem to be nonexistent and Jaegers are the new model airplanes that can be built in your own background.
Here, enters Jake Pentecost (John Boyega). The son of General Pentecost (Idris Elba: who does not physically appear in this film), partying in an abandoned summer home. The scene is jarring, as the forced juxtaposition between his partying and voice over recounting the post-Kaiju rebuild lacks tonal awareness. What’s the point of the scene? Do we find out anything relevant about the character? Do we learn about his background? Not really. He’s just a thief who loves Sriracha, a character element which never appears again, whose daddy didn’t love him enough. Yawn!
Nevertheless, on one of Jake’s runs to steal Jaeger parts for the black market, he bumps into a fellow thief: Amara (Cailee Spaeny). Both are tracked down to Amara’s “secret” hideout and caught, though it’s never explained how they were tracked. Upon their arrest, both are sent to pilot training.
The pilot training sequence is by far the low part of the film (which accounts for 65% of the run time, or so). For one, we’re introduced to Nate (Scott Eastwood), who was once Jake’s (see they rhyme) partner. Nate has never forgiven Jake for washing out of the training program…which is a cruddy reason, but okay. However, it’s Scott Eastwood’s awkward facsimile of his father’s persona that’s like a stroke to your second brain. If Eastwood wants to have a legitimate career, then he should cease from taking roles that are caricatures of his father. Because quite honestly, I think there’s something there. Eastwood could be something, if he allowed himself to be something else.
Also, there’s Jake and Nate’s mutual attraction toward Jules (Adria Arjona), a fellow officer, which is at once disgusting and pointless. From the moment she appears on screen she’s objectified as a possible score for Jake. Toward the end of the film, there’s some weird attempt at autonomy for her, but with little responsibilities drawn out. Every sequence with her character is a massive pile of rapey vibes.
But most of all, it’s the dynamic between the recruits that gives cliche a bad name.
Because of course we have Vik (Ivanna Sakhno), who despises Amara for skipping the years of training the other recruits endured (though we’re never told what training). And we also have Amara who lacks drift capability with her fellow recruits because of her traumatic memories, a trope taken from the previous film, which magically resolves itself with little explanation here. These bland procedures are surrounded by other faceless recruits who might as well be office furniture. Quite honestly, I think the film would have been better off choosing between centering on either Jake or Amara.
But hey, maybe you didn’t come to Uprising for its story? Understandable. You came for the fights, robots, and aliens.
Well…..there aren’t many aliens. The fights are limited. And the robots are the same as before.
Even the final fight scene between the Jaegers and Kaijus is like a bad Power Rangers episode, with about as much drama as watching a screw being tightened.
And hey, let’s say you came for the comedy. There are some decent one-liners from Boyega (specifically his quips about his dashing good looks), but most of the laughs are flat.
Also, gone are the dark city scapes. One of the appeals of the first iteration was its visuals. Glowing Jaegers and Kaijus in night enveloped Asian cities were spectacular, recalling Godzilla. Instead, Uprising is shot in the blinding sunlight for no particular reason.
In fact, there aren’t many solid draws to seeing Uprising. If you loved the first Pacific Rim then you’ll most likely be frustrated at how few connections Uprising makes, like the lack of a story behind the Raleigh/Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi does appear in the film) relationship.
The only reason to see this obvious cash grab is if you like a robot bopping you over the head, turning you upside down by the legs, and shaking your pockets dry.
If that’s the case, then by all means enter through the gift shop while you’re at it too, and make sure to thank our robot overlords for a brainless pointless not even remotely entertaining sequel.