3 out of 5 stars (average)
Pacific Rim Uprising is, above all else, a live-action cartoon. Its dialogue is cheesy, the characters are basic, and most of the story that is here can be predicted by space satellites. But who seriously goes to a movie called Pacific Rim Uprising expecting a deep narrative? All most of us really want to see here are giant monsters (here called Kaijus) fighting giant robots (here called Jaegers), and that’s exactly what we get. Pacific Rim Uprising is light, fun, and packed with thrilling action that more than compensates for its thin characters and Power Rangers-like plotline. If that doesn’t sound interesting to you, then go buy that umpteenth ticket for Black Panther or wait until Ready Player One comes out next week.
The story picks up 10 years after the closing of the Kaiju Breach (the portal where the monsters came from), following Jake Pentecost (John Boyega regaining my sympathy after his pitiful turn in The Circle), the son of Idris Elba’s character from the first movie. Rather than follow in Dad’s footsteps, Jake left the military for undisclosed reasons and instead spends his days selling Jaeger parts on the black market.
Of course, Jake is roped back into the military after he and 15-year-old genius Amara (Cailee Spaeney) are summoned to a Jaeger training camp so he can lead new pilots and she can become a recruit. This means we get the generic rivalry between Jake and “uptight” officer Lambert (Scott Eastwood), as well as some ho-hum teen drama between Amara and the ethnically diverse recruits. However, all must put their differences aside when a new kaiju threat appears, with the fate of the world once again at stake.
Like the original, this is a love-it-or-hate-it movie. Having laid the groundwork for this universe last time, the filmmakers let loose and embrace their inner 12 year-olds as they bombard us with flashy, thrilling action sequences. While I would ordinarily criticize a movie for emphasizing action over plot and character, Pacific Rim Uprising is aware of its own outlandishness and doesn’t ask us to take it seriously. The characters are constantly joking around, the tone is light as a feather, and the story expands upon the original mythos without contradicting it. Though this certainly won’t enter the pantheon of classic modern sci-fi sequels like Blade Runner 2049, it is still a worthy follow-up with a few surprises along the way.
If you want well-developed characters or thought-provoking commentary, then you can go watch Black Mirror. Action sequences rule the day in Pacific Rim Uprising, and they are thankfully well-handled. Most of the fights are shot in the daytime, meaning I can actually distinguish one giant robot and monster from another one, a large smile spread across my face as I watch the pure unadulterated destruction that I was promised. Each fight is thrilling, unique, and fun, easily topping the set pieces in the Transformers, Godzilla, and Power Rangers franchises without breaking a sweat.
On a final (and surprising) note, Charlie Day’s character experiences the most progression from the previous film, and is all the better for it. I groaned upon his entrance, but was quickly put at ease when I saw that someone actually directed him instead of letting him act like an over-caffeinated intern again. Rinko Kikuchi also returns as Mako, along with Dr. Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman). Without getting into spoilers, there is a sequel-bait at the end that made me excited to revisit this world, if only so I can see more giant robots fighting giant monsters. Come on, what more could I ask for?
Pacific Rim Uprising gleefully embraces its inner child, providing rousing action, corny dialogue, and surprisingly improving on its predecessor in certain aspects. While the original film had better world-building and characters, I prefer this one because it isn’t afraid to just have fun, an element lacking in most modern blockbusters. If you liked the original, B-movies, or want to feel like a kid again, then See Pacific Rim Uprising.
Rated PG-13 for Sequences of Sci-Fi Violence And Action, And For Some Language