Pacific Rim: Uprising review
In the time between the previous Pacific Rim and the new sequel, I've gotten around to watching anime that had been it's inspiration such as Neon Genesis: Evangelion and Mobile Suit Gundam. I had previously said that the first Pacific Rim was only a monster movie homage (and it still is). Now that original director Guillermo Del Toro had just won his Oscar for The Shape of Water, I had to question my previous statement. I've come to see that the Japanese love seeing their world in a larger scope and what technology can bring to warfare. What makes a lot of this anime, and Pacific Rim interesting is that it shows how much something unknown would force a change to the world military and the definition of an enemy.
As a character study, Pacific Rim is there to be a crowd-pleasing spectacle first. This doesn't mean the movie is bad (in fact, I named it as a favorite of 2014). This simply means that there's nothing wrong with liking a movie about mech-controlled robots fighting space monsters. It just so happened that Del Toro created a world that resembled that similar kind of anime that was appealing to a mainstream audience. Let's see if this story can continue is Pacific Rim: Uprising.
It has been ten years since that Bridge between worlds have closed and the monsters are no longer a threat to Pacific Ocean based cities. A former Jaeger pilot Jake Pentecost (played by John Boyega) is living the life of steeling former mech parts on the black market. He's eventually captured, along with another Jaeger engineer teenager Amara (played by Cailee Spaeny). His adopted sister, now General Secretary Mako Mori tells him that he has the choice of either jail, or returning to China to the Jaeger program, now as an instructor.
Jake takes to offer and comes back not just to train the younger Jaeger pilots with former copilot Nate Lambert (played by Scott Eastwood), but with the threat from Shao Corporation from wanting to replace the human run Jaegers with drones. Cailee, meanwhile, continues to work with the other candidates, who resent her since they worked hard to get in while she was plucked. When a rouge Jaeger attacks Sydney, the drones are approved of, with the supervision of Dr. Newton Geiszler (played by Charlie Day). The Jaeger pilots try to find out who was behind the rouge mech and to see if the Kaiju monsters have returned.
The reason I brought up the anime earlier was to show how inspiration and homage can lead to a creative and original project like Pacific Rim. Pacific Rim: Uprising feels like that it's more or less, copying rather then taking inspiration. Guillermo Del Toro is replaced by Steven S. DeKnight, who is certainly trying to replicate the original. The problem isn't the robot battles, which while they take a while to get to, at least have a lot of great imagery. What falters is the script.
A lot of the plot elements, the rebel told to reenlist, the teenage tough girl, the evil corporation; these all feel like elements from other franchise stories that we've already seen. Because they all take the typical routes, Pacific Rim: Uprising is lacking in surprise. The original movie may have not a lot of original characters either, at least knew that the plot was mainly to defeat the monsters. This tries to pass off as character driven, but comes off as being an obvious product written by committee. So it is disappointing that you have to sit through a lot of predictability before you get to the battles the trailers promise you.
I'll certainly give credit to all the actors for trying their best. In fact, I may like John Boyega as a better lead then Charlie Huffman was before, as Boyega is more charismatic. It should come as no surprise that the script was written by four people, indicating that there was more of a focus on building a franchise rather then a genially good story. I don't have a problem with it as long as I was entertained, which I was, but it just takes too long to get to the good stuff.
I'll give this three Kaiju brains out of five. If your just looking for from giant monsters and robot fighting, then you'll probably be satisfied. This is your standard blockbuster, which I imagine will be fine for most people. It's just that since the first one was made by Guillermo Del Toro, my expectations were a lot higher. Take what you get and see if Pacific Rim: Uprising is enough to keep you entertained.