Pacific Rim: Uprising Movie Review
Written by Ryan Holloway
Released by Universal Pictures
Directed by Steven S. DeKnight
Written by Steven S. DeKnight, Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder and T.S. Nowlin
2018, 111 minutes, Rated PG-13
Released on June 19th, 2018
John Boyega as Jake Pentecost
Scott Eastwood as Nate Lambert
Cailee Spaeny as Amara Namani
Charlie Day as Dr. Newton Geiszler
Burn Gorman as Hermann Gottlieb
Tian Jing as Liwen Shao
Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori
Five years on from Guillermo del Toro’s brainless but fun piece of monster mayhem, director Steven S. DeKnight, best known for directing TV hits Smallville and Daredevil, steps into the Jaeger cockpit to continue the story of huge monsters smashing the shit out of large robots.
With so long to plan, you’d hope for a bit of a slight deviation from the original film’s simple but enjoyable premise, but instead its more of a retread that rests all of its hopes on the young shoulders of John Boyega, who literally looks like he’s just stepped off the set of the The Force Awakens to do DeKnight a favour. Luckily for DeKnight, Boyega lights up the screen much like he did in the Star Wars sequel and carries the film as far as he can; sadly he’s spread a little too thin and things start to crash and burn… literally.
Boyega plays Jake Pentecost, the son of the first film’s hero Stacker Pentecost, played by one of the UK’s finest, Idris Elba. It's now 10 years since Stacker lead the charge against the Kaiju and a group of Jaeger pilots to victory sealing up the breach under the Pacific Ocean and stopping the monsters from destroying the earth.
The world is picking up the pieces from the war, in most cities buildings now stand tall and proud, but there are areas where the only way to survive is to steal in order to exchange for food. Fallen Jaegers are all over and salvaging parts to build unauthorized Jaegers is the most lucrative business on the streets. When a salvage deal goes wrong for Jake, he meets feisty young Namani, played by Cailee Spaeny, who is a wiz at building Jaegers and as they try to escape in her very own creation, they are caught and arrested.
Jake’s sister Mako (Rinko Kikuchi), who has been bailing him out of countless situations, makes a deal with him: go to jail or return to the Jaeger Academy to train a bunch of new recruits that also includes the talented Namani.
So Jake reluctantly returns and spends the middle part of the film wandering around in a robe eating ice-cream (not making that up) and having the odd argument with his old partner Lambert played by a sleepwalking Eastwood.
Healthy helpings of exposition mean that seeing the first film is largely unnecessary, but it would help fill in some of the gaps, especially when a plot involving Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) and his company’s new tech, aiming to make the Jaegers obsolete, pops up to make the film seem like there’s more of a plot than there actually is.
But, come on, this is a movie with cool monsters fighting giant robots and on this front it delivers, and delivers big. The fight scenes are inventive and fun, and beautifully realized. Much like Superman in Man of Steel, the Jaegers smash the shit out of buildings making it hard to understand exactly what it is they’re trying to save. ‘Hey, there’s no more city but we looked cool while we smashing it to bits.’
It's loud, it's big and it tries very hard to be as fresh feeling as the original, but DeKnight isn’t del Toro and although it's lots of fun at times, the talky bits just don’t hold it together enough to keep you invested.
Boyega does prove that even with a substandard script he can shine. Spaeny too works hard and is sure to have a great future.
It’s not quite as soulless as the likes of Transformers, and hiring Boyega (probably because his name has Jaeger in it?) was a masterstroke as, without him, Pacific Rim: Uprising would have been unbearable.
If you’re willing to suspend your disbelief from the very top of a Jaeger you might just enjoy yourself, just don’t think about it too much afterwards, if at all.
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