Directed by Steven S. DeKnight
Starring: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Charlie Day, Cailee Spaeny, Tian Jing, Burn Gorman
“Pacific Rim: Uprising” is a lot closer to a soft reboot than a sequel. Hell with the stylistic, visual, editing, writing and directing changes you could say it’s more a fan fiction of “Pacific Rim” with its often eyebrow-raising narrative choices.
But you don’t really watch these types of movies because they’re deep. You watch them because you want to watch giant monster mayhem and in this way the film…mostly delivers on this.
(Ok, mostly kind of? Does that make any sense?)
The film can be definitely better but in at least this reviewer’s opinion it could’ve been waaaaay worse. The monster movie genre, especially the Sentai genre that this sequel draws from especially, isn’t exactly known for its Shakespearean bravado.
(It’s known for shit like this!)
“Uprising” takes place ten years after the events of the original as the Pan Pacific Defense Force is trying out a new drone Jaegar program because *shrugs*. Meanwhile, Jake Pentecost, son of Stacker Pentecost tries to step out of his father’s shadow by training a new team of Jaegar pilots in preparation for the possibility of a new kaiju threat. When a rogue Jaegar causes destruction in Sydney, Australia it is up to Jake to find out the truth behind the attack.
“Gojira” aka “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is considered by many critics to be a classic film by most standards. It’s a deep, metaphorical and most of all socially important film for Japan at the time of its release and still has relevant messaging today. “Gojira’s” sequel, however, “Godzilla Raids Again” has virtually none of the allegorical meaning and strong themes of its predecessor and a host of characters that are fairly irrelevant to the plot. In fact, almost all the Godzilla films that follow “Gojira” are like this and are pretty straight forward B-movie romps with zero depth but that’s basically what makes them charming.
“Uprising” more or less follows this same pattern here, though “Pacific Rim” was never terribly deep for the most part to begin with. The new characters are half-baked, the plot makes zero sense, and the dialogue can at times be lacking to say the least.
Buuuuuut nobody watches these types of movies for those reasons.
When there is action onscreen this film delivers pretty strongly. The special effects, Jaegars and Kaijus look great and the battles feel as epic as they’ve always been with all the pro-wrestling antics this genre is known for.
The film feels like it takes more from anime this time around, especially in the design of the Jaegars than the original and while a couple of them are indistinguishable without their colors, the new Gypsy, I feel, is pretty rad.
(I mean, look at that sexy motherfucker. Look at it!)
Sure, I would’ve definitely preferred a sharper narrative and certainly more of the heart of the original that former director and big kid Guillermo Del Toro orchestrated that film with but again, for this genre of movies, were you actually expecting something deep and NOT dumb?
(Man, early concept filming for “Godzilla vs King Kong” looks great!)
I’m still not sure yet, if I believe in John Boyega as a lead actor but for what it’s worth he has a decent level of natural charisma in this movie that carries the film’s lesser scenes (which are many) and has decent chemistry with Scott Eastwood and newcomer Cailee Spaeny.
It feels like there’s a missed opportunity here for a more interesting story though. Spaeny’s Amara is basically Mako from the last movie and not to have Mako interact with her, hell, not to have her drift with her and take her under her wing is a bit of tragedy considering there could’ve been a real connection there. I mean I get that Boyega is a “star” and trying to sell a big studio on having a lead Asian Actress in a major blockbuster is difficult to say the least (even if statistics say otherwise) but Mako could’ve easily been the real star and lead of this movie here based on this premise.
Guess we’ll just wait for the next, next, next, next, next, opportunity to give a franchise over to an Asian actor/actress, right, Hollywood?
The plot is again non-sensical as the drone program and why there are still Jaegars ten years after the war is a mystery (another missed opportunity for perhaps a story that reflects the political undertones of the perpetual police state here too). The films doesn’t do much to make us care either.
Having more of the original characters return would have been nice too (What happened to Raleigh Beckett? Who knows) and Charlie Day as Newt, while still entertaining, is not as amusing in this film as he was in the last.
(Also not having this guy back, Universal? Big mistake.)
It does feel like a decent chunk of the movie may have been edited out too; some scenes from the trailers don’t make an appearance here in the final cut and context and interpersonal relationships between characters don’t feel fully realized.
With all that said, while the film, at times, veers dangerously close (especially early on) into “Transformers” level stupidity, I never felt irritated while watching the movie at least. It’s better than the fucking 2014 “Godzilla” film at least and a hell of a lot more fun.
“Pacific Rim” was a brilliant love letter to the genre; visually both poetic and awesome at the same time. “Uprising” feels more like a very rough draft of that film by comparison and it stumbles because of this. There are certainly worst things you can see at the theaters this weekend, for sure, but definitely there are better things too.
(^One of those better things btw…Pssst…see it again.)
But it’s a monster movie at the end of the day and the final third of the film, which is pretty much non-stop giant-mech on monster action, is good enough for the price of admission. At least for me.
Just bring your popcorn and not your high expectations.
2.5 out of 5
“Just repeat to yourself it’s just a movie*…
I should really just relax…”