Director: Steven S. DeKnight
Starring: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Charlie Day
Review Author: Tony
Pacific Rim was just about the only antidote for the depression I felt when Guillmero Del Toro’s, At the Mountain of Madness, adaptation was shelved. After growing up on VHS tapes of the old Japanese Godzilla films I was a massive Kaiju groupie. Throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s, there were virtually no giant monster movies coming out of Hollywood but the last decade has seen a resurgence of the genre to my delight. Pacific Rim was a major moment in my life as one of my favourite directors tackled one of my favourite genres, it was a match made in heaven.
Ten years after the cancellation of the apocalypse the world has started to rebuild. The Jaeger program has amalgamated into the Pan-Pacific Defence Corps (PPDC) which is now training a new generation of young Jaeger pilots. Stacker Pentecost was one of the war heroes of “The Battle of the Breach” who sacrificed himself for the survival of mankind. However, Stacker’s son Jake isn’t exactly following in his father’s footsteps. Jake has made a comfortable living selling Jaeger parts on the black market. His crimes haven’t gone unnoticed as Jake is arrested alongside a young scavenger girl who has built a Jaeger of her own. Both are drafted into the PPDC to the amusement of Jake who was kicked out years earlier. Unfortunately, the timing of these events is less than convenient as a rogue Jaeger attacks set the wheels in motion for another impending apocalypse.
Unfortunately, for all my love and the general praise that Pacific Rim received, it bombed at the American box office (they went to see Grown Ups 2 instead………..) and only broke even due to the Chinese market. This put any sequel on a lifeline and Del Toro stepped down as director, which isn’t that much of a shame considering we got Shape of Water instead. It is, however, the biggest detriment to Uprising as it’s missing all the visual flair, creativity, and childlike wonder that Del Toro infused in the first film. The colours, designs and midnight settings elevated Pacific Rim from just a pulpy summer blockbuster to a truly beautiful looking film bursting with imagination and a visual history that could only come from Del Toro’s mind. Uprising is exclusively shot in daylight settings with no real panache.
While I must admit that the first film had some clunky exposition and cheese and crackers dialogue, it’s Shakespeare compared to some of the character interactions in Uprising. The entire new cast of Jaeger pilots are all teens with dialogue written by how studio execs expect teens to speak making for some excruciating moments. I ended up hating the new pilots so much I began to cheer for the Kaijus. Part of the charm of the first film was having a bunch of age beaten veterans growling at each other. Scott Eastwood is already wooden enough as it is but this script turns him into a Sarlacc pit that feeds on charisma, thankfully Boyega has it in spades and brings a sliver of chemistry to their scenes.
Despite its numerous shortcomings and dip in quality when compared to the first, Pacific Rim Uprising still delivers in the most important department; Robots punching monsters. Steven S. Knight has previously helmed the shows Spartacus and Daredevil, both of which are known for their stylized and impressive fight scenes. Each battle scene is shot surprisingly well with the action front and center and most importantly, in focus (unlike the vomit inducing quick cuts of the Transformers films). The Jaegers look and feel powerful as every blow sends their foe crashing through buildings and causing general chaos within a mile radius. Another element I generally enjoyed was the pure lunacy of the plot. While I won’t spoil it I can reveal that this film left no idea on the whiteboard as it fully embraces it’s less convenient plot threads.
Perhaps I may be developing a brain deficiency but I couldn’t help but enjoy Uprising. It’s a lesser sequel in every sense of the word but it respects its predecessor and is surprisingly self-aware. That’s not to say it’s a particularly great film as many elements such as new characters and character arcs fall flat on their face (really hard). Dumb fun is a pretty thin defense for most of the blockbuster’s of today, especially in the case of Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich films, but robots and monsters the size of skyscrapers having a royal rumble through a vast cityscape with no regard for collateral damage is a pretty entertaining spectacle.
Rating: 2.9 / 5 Cans of Guinness