Giant robots fighting giant monsters. Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim was nothing groundbreaking or thematically nuanced, but like Jurassic World or 2007’s Transformers it was an absolutely fun and exciting ride that felt ripped right out of a 90’s cartoon. The action was everything missing from the well rounded but lacking Power Rangers movie. With a new cast of characters and a new director at the helm, Pacific Rim: Uprising looks to recreate the same excitement as its predecessor.
Uprising takes place 10 years after the original film, when pilots of giant robots called Jaegers fought to close an interdimensional gateway that led colossal monsters known as Kaiju into our world. Jake Pentacost (John Boyega), son of deceased Pacific Rim General Stacker Pentacost (Idris Elba) spends his days recovering old Jaeger parts and selling them to the highest bidder. His thieving lifestyle brings him into contact with a young, orphaned girl (Cailee Spainey) who has built her own tiny fighting robot. When rogue Jaegers threaten to reopen the Kaiju portal, Jake is forced to reunite with an old rival (Scott Eastwood) and lead a band of young recruits into war against this mysterious new threat.
In many ways, Pacific Rim: Uprising is what 2017’s disastrous Transformers: The Last Knight wanted to be, with a more concise narrative and more likable leads. John Boyega, of Star Wars fame, is the perfect centerpiece for this sequel. He delivers boyish charm and more comedic timing than anyone in the previous film. The intensity he brings in the climax makes him feel like a worthy successor to Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentacost despite the fact that the latter is only shown in photos. And even though her subplot with the other young recruits falls flat, Cailey Spainey is a welcomed addition thanks to a feisty performance and endearing sibling-like chemistry with Boyega.
The rest of the supporting characters are just as awkwardly generic, especially Scott Eastwood, but once the Jaeger’s mount up and the action takes center stage most of the blandness of the script washes away. There’s just something about the synchronized style of robot piloting that these films implement that feels imaginative and inherently cool. The reveal of the film’s villain, though awkward, is also a pleasantly surprising twist that keeps the plot from being too predictable.
Uprising is a tonal replica of the previous film for better and worse. If you found the characters cartoonish and the dialogue cliché on the first go round, then this film will be just as unsatisfying. But if you’re like me, and the high-stakes action of Pacific Rim had you on the edge of your seat, then this sequel will absolutely deliver more times than it doesn’t. In many ways, it actually ups the ante with more interesting characters and even more jaw dropping CGI sequences that boast new and interesting designs for both the Jaegers and their adversaries.
FINAL GRADE: B