At least Michael Bay isn’t attached to this one.
In this strange world we live in, there are two mainstream franchises that are about giant robots punching other robots (I see you Real Steel, get a sequel green-lit and we’ll talk). The first, Transformers, is god-awful. No way around that one. The second, Pacific Rim and now Pacific Rim: Uprising, is sub-par. They certainly aren’t great, but there’s a good amount of guilty pleasure fun that can be had, at least with Guillermo del Toro’s first film.
Pacific Rim: Uprising, however, once again re-enforcing the idea that a movie about giant robots will probably never actually ascend to being better than average.
Set ten years after the events of the first film, when Idris Elba decided to drive his robot straight into the heart of the monster lair or whatever, Pacific Rim: Uprising follows Jake Pentecost (John Boyega, basically playing Finn once again) as a former Jaeger pilot turned low-life thief.
After all, there’s no way Pentecost could live up to his father’s legacy — who just so happened to be Idris Elba himself (yeah, yeah his character has his name, but we all know that it was actually Idris Elba who canceled the apocalypse). Pentecost tried the whole Jaeger program, and it wasn’t for him. Too many rules and whatnot.
Now he makes a living by breaking into Jaeger scrap-yards and selling parts for things like Oreos and hot sauce (a concept that’s never properly explained). It’s not the life his father would have wanted for him, but Pentecost is plenty happy with it.
Until, of course, the Kaiju do return and we learn that the war wasn’t really over after all. Pentecost gets dragged back into the Jaeger program and once again has to go save the world alongside his former pilot or neural drift partner (another concept I still don’t fully understand), who he kinda straight up hates, named Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood).
Oh yeah, and there’s a bunch of kids this time around. They take the “Ender’s Game” approach by having a bunch of teenagers pilot the new Jaegers, because, apparently, they’re more drift compatible or whatnot, so we spend some time with this new character named Amara Naming (Cailee Spaeny).
And speaking of characters we may be indifferent towards, everyone’s least favorite pair of scientist — Dr. Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) and Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) — are back. For all the things Pacific Rim may have done right, those two definitely weren’t one of them. Bringing them back was an odd move, to say the least, and some of the things they do in this movie, well….we’ll get to that.
Pacific Rim: Uprising is exactly what you would expect it to be from the trailers. It’s more of a corporate sell-out than the first Pacific Rim and there’s still nothing much here in the way of character or story development, but if you want to see big things punching other things then you were probably on board for this movie long before reading this review.
The most interesting thing Pacific Rim: Uprising brings to the table is Pentecost’s storyline. Perhaps it’s just Boyega’s likable personality that was selling the whole thing, but the character arch he takes as he deals with his past and the backstory with his father actually made for some semi-interesting drama.
That being said, the whole thing would have gone a lot smoother if they found someone else to play his partner besides Scott Eastwood. Eastwood, son of Clint Eastwood, is a decent actor but he’s not one that has reached the point where he can take on a leading role. Pacific Rim: Uprising makes the mistake of asking him to do so, and his inexperience and overall blandness really sticks out.
The angle with the kids was an interesting addition to the Pacific Rim universe — if only it had proper time to develop. Putting children in robots should be a BIG deal, like big enough to get its own movie. Here, however, it’s pretty much thrown to the sideline. We return to these teenagers whenever it’s convenient to the plot, without ever really getting to know any of them.
And then there’s the scientist. Look, maybe there are people out there who think these two characters are funny, I don’t know. The humor in the Pacific Rim movies has never really worked for me, and Pacific Rim: Uprising tries to take that to the next level as someone is telling a joke in every other scene.
But these two bumbling idiots waste so much screen-time and do so much stupid shit. I’m not going to go into details here because of spoilers sake, but Pacific Rim: Uprising takes these two in some pretty new and stupid directions — especially that of Charlie Day. I respect that DeKnight wanted to do something new here, but essentially having the entire movie hinge on a character that most of the audience can’t stand isn’t the smartest move. Do the exact same thing but use Ron Pearlman’s character for the first film to do it, and we could be on to something here. Charlie Day, though, simply doesn’t work.
That is the credit I will give DeKnight for Pacific Rim: Uprising though, he’s clearly doing his own thing. He isn’t relying on del Toro’s film to carry him through on the sequel, he has his own ideas he wants thrown in there. Sadly, not all of those ideas are fully fleshed out and a lot of the movie falls flat. Still, as I said before, there’s an audience for this movie and that audience is sure to come away plenty satisfied.
Watch the trailer here and then let us know, in the comments below: Did you see Pacific Rim: Uprising? What did you think? Do you want to see more Pacific Rim movies or are you good?
'Pacific Rim: Uprising' review: Robots are punching things. Again.5