If we’re being honest, Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim was a movie that promised so, so much, yet to many it ended up being a bit of a disappointment. Some saw that 2013 film as a loving homage to monster movies of yesteryear, whilst others saw it as a soulless, formulaic picture that was a case of style over substance. Fast forward five years, and here we have the long-gestating follow-up to that opinion-splitting film – but the question is, is Pacific Rim: Uprising actually any good?
Going back to del Toro’s original Pacific Rim, there we saw Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentecost as the hero of the hour as mankind piloted Jaegers in a battle against some big ol’ Kaiju beasties from the depths of the ocean. Here, John Boyega plays Stacker’s son, Jake; a black-market tech scavenger who is hesitant to follow in his old man’s footsteps. Of course, before you can say “reluctant hero”, Jake is back in the Jaeger game and training up new recruits led by Cailee Spaeny’s rebellious orphan, Amara Namani, and he finds himself working alongside his former Jaeger co-pilot, Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood). And what good timing it is, considering that Jing Tian’s Shao Liwen is driving forward with a new rival drone project, whilst a rogue Jaeger turns up in Australia as the proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan. Can Jake truly pick up where his pops left off? Does he really want to pick up where his pops left off? And just how many times is it acceptable to see huge hulking drones causing chaos and carnage in one movie?
Pacific Rim: Uprising will likely ultimately be looked back upon in a similar way to its predecessor; with it again one that will split opinion. To be frank, though, it’s quite simply a bit of fist-pumping, no-nonsense, popcorn-munching fun. It’s a popcorn picture in every imaginable way, and it’s something that you can easily turn on without having to really engage your brain all that much. And sometimes, that’s what movies are about. Uprising is abrasive, indulgent, and has all systems amped up to 11, and when it comes down to it, it again is a film about giant robots battling giant monsters.
John Boyega is the clear star of the show here, putting in a leading man performance that manages to capture the charm, energy, and magnetic presence of classic Harrison Ford or even, as a more modern-day reference point, Dwayne Johnson. While Boyega’s role in the Star Wars franchise has seen him largely positioned as comic relief by this point, here he shows that he can be more than just that guy you rely on to lighten the mood or quip wise. That’s not to say that he doesn’t indeed lighten the mood or quip wise here, of course, but there’s just a whole lot more to his turn as Jake. Unfortunately for Boyega, though, he’s let down by a tale that is, much like del Toro’s 2013 feature, so often all about the crash ‘n’ wallop, lazily relying far too much on its elaborate, skyline-decimating, overly-drawn-out action sequences. But then, that’s kind of par for the course for a movie like Pacific Rim: Uprising, right? And to be fair, when your action sequences are so impressive, we can almost excuse Uprising for overindulging on this front.
Will Pacific Rim: Uprising revolutionize the sci-fi action game? Not a chance. What it will do, however, is provide a fine way to pass a few hours on a Saturday night as you work your way through a big bag of Butterkist. Likewise, this is a film that isn’t going to win over those who weren’t all that keen on the first Pacific Rim. In fact, if anything, it takes the key elements of that first movie and doubles down on them. A decent, if not uninspiring actioner that will likely tick plenty of boxes for genre fans with a penchant for over-the-top bash ‘em, smash’ em carnage. Nothing more, nothing less.
Special Features: Audio commentary with Steven S. DeKnight / Ten featurettes / Deleted scenes
PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: STEVEN S. DEKNIGHT / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: JOHN BOYEGA, SCOTT EASTWOOD, CAILEE SPAENY, TIAN JING, BURN GORMAN, CHARLIE DAY, RINKO KIKUCHI / RELEASE DATE: JULY 30TH