In 2013, Guillermo del Toro unleashed Pacific Rim upon world cinemas. It was a unique concoction, combining the feel and spirit of the classic Godzilla films of the 1960s and 70s with modern day grit and special effects. The film was almost a throwback to the popular culture of that era, with giant robots reminiscent of the Shogun Warriors toy line taking the lead. It was a fun and action packed movie that unfortunately failed to gain much traction at the American box office but was rescued by a strong showing in China.
Now, almost five years later, Pacific Rim is back in a sequel from an all-new director and all-new script writer. Guillermo del Toro still has his name as Producer but the question remains; can this movie maintain the fun and spirit of the original while still moving the story forward? Is Steven de Knight, show runner from Netflix’s Daredevil series, someone who can pick up the ball from del Toro and run with it to score a success?
Sadly, the answer to both of these questions is a resounding “no.” Not only does Pacific Rim Uprising fail to capture the charm and spirit of its predecessor, it provides an almost textbook example of how the studio system takes fun, original properties and churns out lifeless formulaic dreck in the pursuit of profit. Every aspect of the film seems less like a creative choice and more like something that was assembled with the intention of hitting a list of marketing requirements put together by the studio heads. It’s grim, it’s dumb, it’s violent, it’s full of mindless action sequences as well as underdeveloped and unlikeable characters. In other words it’s less like a Pacific Rim 2 and more like a Transformers 6.
The “story” of Transformers 6… I mean Pacific Rim Uprising, revolves around Jake Pentecost (played by John Boyega of Star Wars fame). Jake is the son of Stacker Pentecost, the character played by Idris Elba who SPOILER IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FIRST MOVIE sacrifices himself to save the world at the end. Unlike his father, who was commander of the Jaeger robot pilots, Jake has chosen to become a thief working in the underworld. When he goes to steal a Jaeger robot core from a junkyard he winds up chasing a young girl who has gotten there to steal it before him. He chases her back to her home where it turns out she has assembled her own mini-Jaeger from scrap. They are then faced with a police Jaeger robot that chases them inside her scrap robot. They are apprehended and put in jail. However, inexplicably, they are both then given the choice to join the elite Jaeger pilot squadron rather than serve a lengthy prison sentence. It turns out Jake had previously been in the Jaeger corp and now returns to continue his combative and antagonistic relationships with the conceited egotists that make up this army. The characters are all one-dimensional, cold, and unpleasant. You could understand Jake wanting to run away and have nothing to do with them, if only he had a more sympathetic personality of his own. As it stands, none of the characters display a warm or interesting side and there’s nobody to identify with in the whole film. It’s a relief when the monsters do eventually show up and candidly you can sympathize with them wanting to destroy all life on this particular version of earth.
In summary, Pacific Rim: Uprising takes an enjoyable property and turns it into yet another dreary, post-apocalyptic, grim-dark slugfest. De Knight shows himself to have none of del Toro’s creativity and sense of play. The essence of Pacific Rim is stripped away, leaving us with yet another Michael Bay-like mess of action sequences and disconnected narrative. There are some neat robot battles along the way, but on the whole the experience is that of one long slog.
Rating: 1 and a half stars
The globe-spanning conflict between otherworldly monsters of mass destruction and the human-piloted super-machines built to vanquish them was only a prelude to the all-out assault on humanity in Pacific Rim Uprising.
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.
CAST: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Jing Tian, Cailee Spaeny, Rinko Kikuchi, Burn Gorman, Adria Arjona and Charlie Day
DIRECTED BY: Steven S. DeKnight (Netflix’s Daredevil, STARZ’s Spartacus)
SCREENPLAY BY: Emily Carmichael & Kira Snyder and Steven S. DeKnight and T.S. Nowlin
STORY BY: Steven S. DeKnight and T.S. Nowlin
BASED ON THE CHARACTERS CREATED BY: Travis Beacham