In 2013, Pacific Rim fulfilled every geek’s dream by showing what a kaiju battle would look like with today’s CGI technology. Guillermo del Toro’s massive creature feature catapulted gargantuan beasts back into the public consciousness.
Directed this time by Steven S. DeKnight, Pacific Rim Uprising hopes to replicate that monstrous charm that made the first movie so enjoyable. As grandiose as its vision is, our collective thirst for a high-tech CGI monster battle has already been satiated. There’s no real reason that this film should be as big as it should.
Uprising feels like a cash decision to bring back the kaijus for more ticket sales. The film shared more similarities with the ill-reviewed Transformers film franchise than a true Pacific Rim sequel. In fact, its very first scenes mirrored those from last year’s Transformers: The Last Knight. In a scene, the protagonist Jake Pentecost (John Boyega) crosses paths with a survivalist orphan Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeney) and her small robot Scrapper. Sounds familiar? Transformers’ Cade Yaeger had the same encounter with Izabella in The Last Knight.
Minus all the similarities with Transformers, the film’s narrative felt forced just to bring back the monsters. Pacific Rim ended its story cut and dried. The kaiju are gone and the Breach has been destroyed. Uprising took a very insane approach with how it brought back the monsters.
Breaches are reopened, the kaiju are back, and a new generation has to step up. It’s a passing of the torch film that’s too preoccupied with tying up the loose ends of its predecessor. Sadly, it doesn’t do well on both counts.
For one, Uprising’s ties with the first film are tenuous and lacking. Except for two returning characters, they never had any real presence in the sequel. This could’ve been just a spiritual successor and we wouldn’t have batted an eye.
On the other hand, the new team didn’t get a share of plot development either. Most of the screen time fell to either Pentecost or Namani, who were played terrifically. It was a pleasure finally hearing John Boyega’s natural accent in a feature film.
Other than that, Uprising is a ploy to establish the Pacific Rim franchise as an actual brand. It even includes a stinger that suggests a future sequel. (And it doesn’t make any sense, either.)
Of course, that’s not to say that there isn’t anything to enjoy in Uprising. For all its flaws, it’s still an enjoyable popcorn muncher. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. You can sweep its flaws under the rug if you choose to.
From an identity standpoint, this sequel’s Jaegers are more memorable. They had good weaponry and designs. On the flip side, the kaiju finally had characters of their own. Rather than hulking beasts who just varied in size, they had different skillsets that set them apart from other kaiju.
Similarly, the final battle between the two was extremely watchable. It had the right amount of push and pull that showed each side’s bulk and brawn.
There isn’t much reason why Uprising (or future sequels) should exist. However, that doesn’t mean that we won’t enjoy it anyway. If you’re looking for a confident weekend movie to watch with the family or friends, Pacific Rim Uprising is still a very good choice.