Out this week in cinemas is Pacific Rim: Uprising starring John Boyega, Scott Eastwood and Cailee Spaeny about a world rebuilding from the aftermath of Pacific Rim. But enemies are still in the shadows waiting to strike. Can this new generation prevail?
Pacific Rim: Uprising is set 10 years after Pacific Rim and the world has almost picked itself up from the onslaught of the Kaiju. It’s interesting to see how this next generation is dealing with this world they’re coming into. Parts of the world have fully recovered, there are parts that have become scavengers that pick off the scraps of the final third of the world, the impoverished coastal inhabitants.
This is where we’re introduced to Jake Pentecost (Boyega) a man trying to step out of the considerable shadow of Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba). He has serious daddy issues and doesn’t want to be the man his father was the icon that saved the world. After a run-in with young outcast Amara (Spaeny) Jake is roped back into training the next generation of Jaeger pilots, as a way of recompense, with his ex-partner Nate (Eastwood) in tow. As the film unfolds events begin to connect together that show that the war with the Precursors for the soul of Earth is not over.
When I saw Pacific Rim back in 2013 I felt like I had seen Power Rangers evolved to the point for an “adult” like myself to properly digest. With Pacific Rim: Uprising the franchise (Universal Pictures clearly wants a franchise) has taken several steps forward to make this a bigger universe to roll around in with the Jaegers and the Kaiju and that is great. More power to anything that came from an original thought process. Unfortunately, the film just doesn’t have the style, and charm that its predecessor had and this is down to the all too familiar beats the story takes to its climax. It’s got a few twists and turns that to me felt like a nod to other cult hits like Starship Troopers but a generic screenplay means that a lot of what is coming out of the characters mouths goes out one ear and through the other because there’s no “We are cancelling the Apocalypse” scene and that’s a shame because it’s that ridiculousness that was so well earned in Pacific Rim that is missing from Pacific Rim: Uprising. I suppose the ultimate takeaway from this is that the heart of Pacific Rim did not get transplanted into its sequel.
Thankfully though the action is still top notch, there is considerably less Kaiju versus Jaeger battles but what replaces them, for the most part, are stellar in choreography, in particular, a fight at an abandoned Jaeger factory. The final climactic battle, though familiar in its final execution, is still a giddy spectacle to experience. The only part about the fights that let them down and let the film down as a whole are the characters. They are wafer thin with their motivations and characterisations especially the supporting cast. Jake is interesting but his plot is divided with what is going on with Amara as she trains to be a Jaeger pilot and because the characters are written so poorly it feels unnecessary. Ultimately though the overall plot and machinations of the villains are cool but they are diluted by the teenage Starship Troopers plot with Amara and the ex-pilot looking for purpose in Jake’s story thread.
Pacific Rim: Uprising is a strange Frankenstein creation. The world and the lore are there to engage the audience but an overall vision is needed to see this become the franchise it clearly wants to be. Head along if you were a fan of the first film but temper your expectations.