Pacific Rim Uprising (6.8 out of 10) Directed by Steven S. DeKnight ;Written by Steven S. DeKnight, Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, and T.S. Nowlin; Starring John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny, Burn Gorman, Charlie Day; rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language ; Running time 111 minutes; In theatres everywhere March 23, 2018.
Set a decade after the characters of the first film closed the breach in the Pacific Rim that had allowed the Kaiju invaders to attack Earth, Pacific Rim Uprising, gives us the story of Jake Pentecost (John Boyega.) His father was one of those heroes who sacrificed their lives to save the world the last time. The apple falls incredibly far from the tree, though.
Boyega starts the film as an underworld version of Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, moving through junkyards to steal parts to survive. Soon, he's picked up by the authorities and given a Dirty Dozen-style ultimatum: join back up in the war effort or rot in jail. Alongside him is a young Jaeger-savant named Amara (Cailee Spaeny) who is given the same choice.
Naturally, they both join up.
The film is at its best when it's investing in the mythology of the Jaegers and the invaders and having them fight, rather than forcing us to piece together what might be the most obvious turns in the film that lead us to understand who the real bad guys were. If you didn't see the big twists coming, I truly envy you.
Despite the glaring predictability, the movie is written well enough and the actors treat it with the gravitas and humor required of a movie whose central conceit is to watch giant robots punch giant monsters. We get that in spades. And seeing a group of kids suit up in Jaegers and kick ass behind Gipsy Avenger, piloted by John Boyega and Scott Eastwood, is an entirely pleasing thing to see. Eastwood is the spitting image of his father, and someone needs to cast him in a spaghetti western, ASAP.
The thing I was most disappointed by was the treatment and fate of the character Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi). I think she deserved a lot more to do than she got and she was the character I was most excited to see return. Instead, she serves as a foil to further motivate her adopted little brother, Jake Pentecost.
As the film culminates in Tokyo, it's wonderful to see the film paying homage to the roots of the genre, giving us shots of Japanese people running through the streets from a giant monster destroying their city. There's nothing about that that isn't worth smiling about. There was a balancing act, though, that Guillermo Del Toro seemed able to better pull off in the first film, where there was a gravity to the civilians in their shelters as the Jaegers fought for their survival up above. Here, they're a bit of an afterthought, though they're still treated with much more sense and care than, say, Man of Steel.
I sat next to my 14-year-old daughter as we watched the film and I can assure you that it greatly enhanced my experience. She was laughing and crying in all the right moments. She felt very represented by Amara and just loved what she saw. After we left the theatre, she told me, "If you find anything wrong with this movie, I will slap you, because it was amazing."
And although I think this review might leave her room to want to slap me, it doesn't matter what I think about how silly some of the plot and acting was: I still had fun and it was better than Gareth Edwards' abysmal Godzilla, which felt like a recent low-water mark in Kaiju cinema. Some have compared it to a step above Transformers films, and I think that might be a fair comparison as well.
Ultimately, this delivered on a promise of the fun you'd have watching giant robots with cool names punching giant monsters. It's not as smart as the first film and doesn't try to be. There's something admirable about a film that knows exactly what it wants to do and delivers that one specific thing well enough that you leave with a smile on your face.
Sure, it has its issues, but it did what it set out to do. This was highly enjoyable fare and, in my view, worth the ticket price. 6.8 of 10.
Tags: pacific rim