Pacific Rim: Uprising movie review — Falls far short of Guillermo del Torro's cheesy but fun original
Pacific Rim: Uprising is ultimately a film that struggles to find a reason to exist, sticking out like a dullard outcast at a time when the other kids have become more intelligent and savvy
The original Pacific Rim was a cause for a celebration because it offered us good, clean, giant crowd-pleasing action without the irritating trappings of the Transformers movies. It comes as no surprise, really, that the sequel isn’t as exciting as the first movie, despite being fairly serviceable popcorn entertainment. Without Guillermo Del Toro at the helm this was never going to live up to the original’s package of cheesy but fun surprises.
So the sequel picks up a handful of years after the events of the first film — Stacker Pentecost’s son Jake (John Boyega) is now our hero in search of meaning in life. Jake finds himself in a Jaeger training program with his friend Nate (Scott Eastwood), and is quite quickly sent off on an adventure because of a Jaeger that has for some reason gone rogue. As Jake pieces the mystery together the threat of the Kaijus returns in full swing and all plot elements merely become excuses for big screen robot vs robot vs kaiju battles.
The problem with Uprising is not just its name (although it is quite horrid) but the dumbing down of everything that made the first movie great. This is without a doubt a more Transformers-ey flavored movie with more youth and China pandering than need be. Secondly the plot makes absolutely no sense — and not in an enjoyably bonkers way, but a cloying manner that tries to compensate by zipping through the narrative and adding chaos, as if to render a false sense of complication. Thirdly, the sense of adventure seems to be missing in this film. Even though there are plenty of action scenes the stakes don’t seem high enough for us to care. Not for a moment does one feel like the heroes in the film are in any real danger — which kind of makes the monsters not very threatening.
On the bright side, most of the action scenes here are set in bright daylight, which is a nice change from the previous movie where everything was dark and rainy. This is a double-edged sword of course, because more image clarity only showcases more of the chinks in the CGI’s armour. With so much happening on the screen it is difficult to gauge if the VFX is actually better this time, even though the size of the final boss Kaiju is way more epic than what we’ve seen previously. To director Steven S DeKnight’s credit, the film does feel like a cartoon and it is easy to simply sit back and relish the slicing and dicing action of the robots. These are action figures coming to life, and the filmmaker doesn’t hold back on imaginative monster robot skirmishes — particularly in the climactic battle.
The less said about the dialogue and character development the better; although Boyega is as always very likable, but then there’s the Charlie Day character which is so hilariously cartoonish you wish the whole film reflected his tone. This is ultimately a film that struggles to find a reason to exist, sticking out like a dullard outcast at a time when the other kids have become more intelligent and savvy. The final scene teases you a third installment but at this point it is rather difficult to invest emotionally in a film franchise that works more as frivolous pastime than a memorable classic.
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