PACIFIC RIM UPRISING ½
2018, PG-13, 111 mins.
John Boyega as Jake Pentecost / Scott Eastwood as Nate Lambert / Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori / Charlie Day as Dr. Newton Geiszler / Burn Gorman as Dr. Hermann Gottlieb / Max Martini as Herc Hansen / Karan Brar as Suresh / Jing Tian as Liwen Shao / Cailee Spaeny as Amara / Levi Meaden as Ilya
Directed by Steven S. DeKnight / Written by Steven S. DeKnight, Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, and T.S. Nowlin
PACIFIC RIM UPRISING is a wholly unnecessary and carelessly unimaginative sequel to the Guillermo del Toro 2013 directed post apocalyptic sci-fi thriller involving giant man piloted robots that battle even larger monsters to ensure the protection and survival of the human race.
I thought that
the first film in this series embraced the lunacy of its wacky premise
while regrettably taking it all a bit too seriously.
It certainly delivered on stupendously rendered visual effects and
stunning action sequences, but rarely left any action/war film cliché
stone unturned. This sequel
pathetically believes that upping the ante on relatively everything
equates to more satisfying returns, but bigger rarely means better,
because PACIFIC RIM UPRISING fails at being a thoroughly engaging sequel
because there's a soul sucking dullness to the scripting and mayhem
presented that feels more numbing than exhilarating this go around.
Del Toro has
wisely decided to sit this one out (he now serves as producer) and even
though I certainly had problems with some of his creative choices in the
first PACIFIC RIM, I'll
concede that he certainly knew how to create a consummately stunning film
on a level of pure visual dynamism. Replacing
him now is Steven S. DeKnight, making his feature film debut (he
previously worked on the small screen producing SPARTACUS for Starz), and
he does a few intriguing things here and there to visually segregate his
sequel apart from del Toro's film. PACIFIC RIM UPRISING seems more
enthusiastically brighter, substituting in daytime scenes for the frequent
rainy night set moments of its predecessor, which is welcoming.
The bravura visual effects work here is also as polished as ever by
somehow thanklessly making these monumentally large scale battles feel
oddly credible. Where this film really fails is in its narrative execution,
which is replete with lazy and sloppy scripting that seems like a
half-hearted attempt at expanding upon the del Toro's previously
established mythology. I
rarely cared for the stakes in PACIFIC RIM UPRISING because its filled
with cardboard cutout character types that rarely inspire our rooting
In case you
forgot the premise to the original film, the PACIFIC RIM universe is set
in the not so distant future when skyscraper sized monsters ("kaiju")
have revealed themselves to the planet via an interdimensional hole at
the bottom of the ocean floor.
In order to better protect the world from such city decimating
creatures, countries have banded together to create the "Jaeger"
program, which involved engineering and building massive robots to battle
the kaiju; the robots are so big that two pilots - mentally linked - are
required to adequately and smoothly drive the mechanical beasties.
When PACIFIC RIM 1 concluded the aforementioned breach between
worlds was closed, seemingly ending humanity's war against the kaiju.
PACIFIC RIM UPRISING opens a decade later to show how civilization
has moved on and tried to rebuild after the unfathomably large collateral
damage the war brought, but the military forces are still on high alert
and in the defensive position just in case a kaiju shows up again.
recruits are always needed in war films such as these, and for sequels
that couldn't bring back the original cast members, like Charlie Hunnam's
Raleigh Beckett, who's oddly never referenced here despite surviving the
last film's climatic showdown. Another
one of the characters that didn't make it here was Idris Elba's Stacker
Pentecost, who bravely gave his life to close and seal the breach.
His son, Jake (STAR
WARS' charming and easily likeable John Boyega), makes an
appearance here, who spends most of his days making a living as a thief
and seller of abandoned Jaeger tech.
He's arrested early on in the film for stealing a disable Jaeger's
power core alongside the young and spirited Amara (Cailee Spaeny), a
spunky teen that's also rather conveniently a real grease monkey and is so
technologically skilled that she's able to build her own small scale
Jake is reunited
with his own partner in Nate (Scott Eastwood, looking alarmingly like his
father Clint, but lacking his screen charisma) and sister, Mako (Rinko
Kinkuchi, one of the few returning characters here).
Of course, as the Jaeger program is busy training a squad of new
cadets during peace time a rogue Jaeger that appears possessed launches a
devastating attack, which is linked to the re-appearance of the kaiju on
Earth. As the ragtag group of
heroes begin to realize the scale and scope of the new kaiju menace, they
realize that their only last ditch option to secure the world's future is to
suit up and take the fight to the kaiju, which culminates in Tokyo and
Mount Fuji for reasons that aren't really cogently explained, other then
to shamelessly allow PACIFIC RIM UPRISING to pander to the types of
international movie markets that typically eat these films up when North
American viewers won't.
Let's talk about
the action in this film, especially the climax just referenced, which
seems to go on for literally ever without an end in sight.
Now, initially it's an unmitigated hoot seeing an army of Jaegers
launch an attack on multiple kaiju with the screaming citizens of Tokyo
fleeing for their lives. There
are some pleasures to be had in the glorified B-movie grade thrills that
sequences like this have to offer, but when one modestly scrutinizes them
they begin to take on the same levels of mindlessness of a Michael Bay
helmed TRANSFORMERS movie.
There's a moment, for example, when one of the Jaegers lassos
multiple high rise buildings (don't ask how), detaches them from their
foundations, and then hurls them at the monsters. Now, it's never once established that the heroes piloting the
Jaegers know whether or not these buildings are empty, which means that
they have thoughtlessly and essentially murdered thousands of civilians in
seconds while trying to defend them and their city.
There's an absolutely soulless quality to PACIFIC RIM UPRISING
that's off-putting: Cities like Sydney and Tokyo are reduced to rubble in
scenes that eerily mirror 9/11 amped up to level 11...and there's
virtually next to no shock or awe or frightened wonder to be had in
experiencing them. I'm
getting really, really tired of monotonous city destruction porn in
modern blockbusters with zero tangible consequences.
Am I guilty of
over-thinking a film series about robots and monsters duking it out?
there's no denying that the PACIFIC RIM series as a collective whole grows
more tedious with each new action set piece; there's only so much you can
visually do with this core concept. That
leaves storytelling and character dynamics to do the rest of the heavy
lifting, but PACIFIC RIM UPRISING struggles - as all bad sequels do - at
finding novel and inventive ways to expand upon the ideas and story arcs
contained in del Toro's film. This
follow-up comes off like being made of the regurgitated elements of other
better sci-fi/war films and contains a laundry list of genre troupes to
the point of making audience members dizzy just thinking about them.
Boyega is an awfully fine and appealing actor, but his hero's
journey and arc - being a reluctant fighter that's haunted by the larger
than life shadow of his dead father - hits every predictable plot beat
imaginable. The relationship he has with the much younger Amara seems
born out of the screenwriter's reluctant insistence that Jake needs
another character to care about because they deem it as important.
And because she's a gearhead you just know that her mini-Jaeger
that she constructed will favor heavily in the film's third act.
It also becomes
abundantly apparent that other side characters were feebly inserted into
the mix here after actors from the first entry became a no-show.
Because Hunnam is AWOL in this sequel, he's been replaced by
another alarmingly similar character in Eastwood's Nate, but he is so
vanilla bland and wooden in the role that you have to pinch and remind
yourself that he's supposed to be a dashing rogue.
Eastwood's lack of personality in the role aside, he's not assisted
by the screenplay's aggressive manner of given him cookie cutter dialogue
that wouldn't have been acceptable in a first draft, let alone a final
product. And don't even
get me started on what the makers here did with Charlie Day's returning
fast talking and neurotic scientist that will leave many of the first
film's primary fanbase crying a resounding foul.
The transition he makes here is so flimsily and ineptly handled
that it's enough to make you want to throw popcorn at the screen.
You know, I had my problems with del Toro's initial installment in this series, but I nevertheless appreciated it as an absolute technological wonder. I went into PACIFIC RIM UPRISING with the very tempered expectations, but I found myself so less willing to forgive any creative indiscretions this go around. If anything, this sequel - which tries exceptionally hard to be a kicking off point for more sequels, especially with an egregiously tacked on final scene - is depressingly bland and uninspired and rarely makes a strong case for its own existence. PACIFIC RIM most definitely looks spiffy and new and shows its gargantuan budget on screen, but its mediocre and oftentimes cringe worthy plotting is of the strictly spare parts variety.