Sometimes, you just know when a film has the potential to satisfy. PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING promises viewers plenty of action involving giant robots and monsters. Quite frankly, the film delivers on its promise in spades. It’s not quite as creative or inventive as the first PACIFIC RIM, but it has a great cast and solid action sequences that guarantee a fun time.
PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING takes place 10 years after the first film, and the world has known peace from the monstrous kaiju during that time. Jake Pentecost (John Boyega) and Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny) are captured breaking the law, and conscripted into serving as Jaeger pilots in the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps. Jake, the son of deceased hero Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba, from the first film), struggles with his family legacy as he reunites with his adopted sister Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) and former Jaeger partner Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood). When new drone Jaegers go haywire and start ripping open portals to the kaiju world, it’s up to the new heroes to band together and fight back against this new threat.
What makes PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING so much fun is its cast. John Boyega is the perfect person to lead this franchise into the future. He is so funny, and utterly infectious. His charm practically oozes off the screen. I also really enjoyed Cailee Spaeny, the young Jaeger cadet that joins as a new recruit. She’s young, but she’s spunky, resilient, and acts as a perfect foil to Boyega. Scott Eastwood is mostly forgettable in this film – he doesn’t do a bad job, but he’s very forgettable. He mostly plays straight man to Boyega, and his character suffers for it.
Returning from the first film, Dr. Newt Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Dr. Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) continue to serve as comic relief as scientists obsessed with studying the kaiju, although Day gets a little more dramatic range in this film – not always to effect. Day morphs from a funny character to a cackling villain, and he doesn’t have the range for that. It’s impossible to take him seriously. Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) also returns, but in a very small role.
PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING doesn’t reinvent the wheel. Whereas the first film really set the stage and took time to explain concepts and ideas, this film just throws the audience right in. For the most part, it works. I don’t need a reminder of how “drifting” works – it makes sense through the course of the film. But the plot does feel a little derivative. It was really cool to watch these giant jaegers fight kaiju in the first film – but in PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING, the kaiju are much less prevalent. The action sequences are more focused on jaegers fighting jaegers – which, admittedly, is still really fun to watch. The film’s climax also includes a great fight sequence with a massive kaiju that easily dwarfs any kaiju seen before. But it also doesn’t feel quite as special. There’s no special moment in the film that makes the jaw drop in astonishment. Once again, cities are destroyed and massive damage is inflicted on robots and monsters alike, but it all feels a bit tired. The action sequences are still really fun, though, and the film has an earnest, almost scrappy feel to it.
PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING has a lot of heart. It feels more family-friendly than the first film, with a kind of innocence that makes it feel more inviting to kids – and that’s not a bad thing. PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING is the kind of film that a child’s mind would invent – giant robots, giant monsters, and giant action. Whereas the first film was a bit dark and edgy, this film feels much more inclusive and cheerful.
The word that kept echoing through my head as PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING ended was: fun. It’s a fun flick. It’s not reinventing the wheel or subverting expectations. It’s a very simple film that essentially boils down to giant robots punching other giant robots and monsters. It’s a loud film, filled with explosions and large-scale destruction. PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING is sometimes nonsensical, but always entertaining.