Cast: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny Rinko Kikuchi
Director: Steven S. DeKnight
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) stars as the rebellious Jake Pentecost, a once-promising Jaeger pilot whose legendary father gave his life to secure humanity’s victory against the monstrous “Kaiju.” Jake has since abandoned his training only to become caught up in a criminal underworld. But when an even more unstoppable threat is unleashed to tear through our cities and bring the world to its knees, he is given one last chance to live up to his father’s legacy by his estranged sister, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi)-who is leading a brave new generation of pilots that have grown up in the shadow of war. As they seek justice for the fallen, their only hope is to unite together in a global uprising against the forces of extinction. Jake is joined by gifted rival pilot Lambert (The Fate of the Furious’ Scott Eastwood) and 15-year-old Jaeger hacker Amara (newcomer Cailee Spaeny), as the heroes of the PPDC become the only family he has left. Rising up to become the most powerful defense force to ever walk the earth, they will set course for a spectacular all-new adventure on a towering scale. Pacific Rim Uprising is directed by Steven S. DeKnight (Netflix’s Daredevil, STARZ’s Spartacus) and also stars Jing Tian, Burn Gorman, Adria Arjona and Charlie Day.
Pacific Rim Uprising is a true testament to the old saying that the sequel is never as good as the original. The movie downgrades almost every single aspect of the previous movie with nothing really original to show for it. While the film is more or less a fun action film, the characters are underdeveloped, and the characters from the original film are butchered in an attempt to be different.
The film follows Jake Pentecost (Boyega), son of former hero of the Kaiju War Stacker Pentecost, as he lives a life of crime after the war. After getting into legal troubles one more time, he is giving an ultimatum from his adopted sister Mako Mori (Kikuchi) to either enlist in the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps or face prison time. Jake reluctantly agrees and now has to face off against his demons from the past as well as the present. The first thing I noticed is that Jake is given a lot of strange dialogue for what I can assume is the sake of comedy, but it comes across awkwardly. In his opening monologue when he is describing what life looks like after the war, he talks about how you have to be careful of people stealing your cookies or sriracha. I am sure those are real problems in a world that looks like survival is a daily struggle, but there has to be more pressing issues. Top this off with a downgraded version of the, “we’re cancelling the apocalypse,” speech from the original and you get an overall corny character in the lead role. While enrolled in the PPDC, Jake has to train a new group of cadets that will eventually pilot the Jaegers. With the exception of Amara (Spaeny), none of these characters are given any development and as a result, I did not really care when any of them were in danger. I know they are not the primary focus of the film, but a couple of minutes would have really helped us form more of a bond with these characters. In the same wavelength, the exchanges between Jake and Nate (Eastwood) try to be similar to that of Maverick and Goose from Top Gun, but it comes nowhere close to that. They have issues from when Jake was in the PPDC, but the resolution comes very quickly and out of nowhere and magically they become best friends. They even have the old trope of being attracted to the same girl, but thankfully that ends better than anticipated. Moving on to the thing that made the original film stand out, the action scenes. This is what everyone is here for, to watch giant robots fight giant aliens. While some of the techniques shown towards the end are pretty cool, most of the movie leading up to that point shows us battles that we could have seen in the first movie. If you are going to make a sequel to a pretty innovative action movie like Pacific Rim, you need to show that there are things we need to see that we did not see in the first one. Being that the action scenes are the cornerstone of the film, the fact that most of them are not incredibly exciting is disappointing. Finally, this film takes two of the better characters from the first film, Mako and Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day), and either gives them plotlines or actions that really destroy the characters they were before. I felt very unsatisfied with the way they were treated and that the plot could have been catered more towards their skills instead of the ending they received.
Overall, Pacific Rim Uprising is a film that sorely missed the precise dedication that Guillermo del Toro put into the original. This is the directorial debut of Steven S. DeKnight and the difference between him and del Toro is night and day. Del Toro is known for his extreme attention to detail and having everything in his movies mean something, and there is almost no attention to detail in this sequel. While the target audience is sure to have a good time watching Pacific Rim Uprising, this is a step backwards in the series and could have been much more had the details of the film been a little more organized.
Overall Score: 5/10