Most of all,Pacific Rim: Uprisingis just confusing. If you havent seen the original, its unlikely much in this sequel will make sense. Concepts like Drift–the way Jaeger pilots mentally link with one another–are poorly explained, despite this movie spending plenty of time attempting to recap and revisit past events. And if you did like the firstPacific Rim, youll likely wonder what happened to all the distinctive side characters, the stylish action, and the flashy aesthetic.Pacific Rim: Uprisingmight have seemed like a pretty good giant monster movie if it didnt have to live up to the gigantically cool original, but unfortunately, it simply cant escape its predecessors massive shadow.
For example, Jake is the son of Stacker Pentecost, a major character from the first movie. This would have worked if, say, Stacker hadnt known about Jake, or Jake was too young to have been involved in the first movies events. Instead,Uprisingwedges in a backstory for Jake that has him dropping out of the Jaeger pilot program while his dad was still alive. Given Stackers well-explored relationship in the original with his adopted daughter, Mako (the great Rinko Kikuchi), it stretches plausibility that Jake wouldnt have been mentioned before now. This is a clumsy way to shoehorn in a new character.
Into that program comes Cailee Spaenys Amara Namani, an orphan who somehow built her own (albeit comparatively pint-sized) Jaeger from stolen and scavenged parts. Meanwhile Jing Tians new character, the ingenious and cold Liwen Shao, threatens to make the government Jaeger program obsolete with her patented remote drone-operated Jaeger technology, developed with help from Charlie Days returning character Dr. Newt Geiszler.
The new Jaegers, on the other hand, are definitely cool. Wielding house-sized weapons like a giant morningstar equipped with multiple spinning blades, or a crackling laser whip, they dominate the movie, as youd expect. If all you really care about is watching giant robots wail on giant aliens–and occasionally, one another–Uprisingwill satisfy, although the action this time around feels slightly less weighty than the original. Bashing giant aliens with a humongous lightning whip or spinning ball of death is awesome on paper, but too many of the Jaegers attacks just seem to glance harmlessly off until the plot demands otherwise.
There are more than just tonal and direction problems. The writing and plotting are all over the place, with unsatisfying character deaths and some actors playing surprisingly against type–albeit seeming to have fun in the process, but with mixed results. One returning character in particular has their role in the movie flipped in a way that just doesnt work. Certain other plot elements are way too convenient, andUprisingdoes a poor job retconning events from the first film.
InPacific Rim: Uprisings climax, Tokyo and Mount Fuji appear a mere few miles apart, which they most certainly are not. It makes for an exciting battle that falls apart when you stop to examine it. That may sound like a nitpick, but its a good metaphor for the rest of the film.
Boyega possesses ample swagger, his character here a transplant of Moses from 2011sAttack the Block, filtered through the confidence Boyegas gained since then as a global superstar thanks to Star Wars. But his cocky demeanor often feels out of place in the movie, like they let the actor improvise too much; too many scenes end with yet another crack from Jake about how good-looking he is, like the script kept getting cut off at the end and Boyega was left to wing it with a joke. Hes as charming as ever, but it gets stale.
At the start, John Boyegas Jake Pentecost, Stackers estranged son, parties in the wreckage of Malibu, giant Kaiju skeletons draped across nearby hillsides. Hes a dropout of the Jaeger pilot program, which for the purposes of this movie is composed of half-trained teenage cadets at a base in China. There may be more pilots at other sites around the world, butUprisinglacks the originals deftness at worldbuilding, so as far as were shown, this is it.
Uprisingtakes place 10 years after the original and follows new and returning characters as they battle yet another Kaiju threat. There hasnt been a new attack since Idris Elbas character, Stacker Pentecost, helped close the breach in the original, and the sequel cant seem to decide whether weve grown complacent since then or doubled down on our defenses. The first movie did a great job communicating the status of Jaegers all around the world, and you felt the stakes heighten as they were one-by-one destroyed; this time around, its unclear where humanitys defenses stand, or why the Jaegers and pilots we do see are the only ones the movie focuses on.
Theres a massively fumbled late-game twist that derails the plot into goofy fan fiction territory that doesnt feel true to this world (though it is, at least, unpredictable). And naturally, the Kaiju return.
Kikuchi, by the way, does return inUprising, but her talents are completely wasted. Adria Arjonas character, the mechanic Jules Reyes, also has very little to do, besides provide another point of competition for Boyega and Eastwoods characters.
Spaeny is a breakout star, althoughUprisingfocuses overall too much on the young characters. Theres a cheesy thematic through-line about the kids needing to step up and save the world, giving it all an unfortunate Spy Kids vibe. Its pretty surprising coming from director Steven DeKnight, whose previous work includes well-received and mature seriesDaredevilandSpartacus. ButUprisingfeels deliberately and conspicuously family friendly. Kids are probably going to love it, but fans of the originals darker tone might find the new vibe disappointing.
There was something magical about the originalPacific Rims giant monster battles, glossy, rain-slicked colors, and seemingly effortless world-building. Its possible the sequel never stood a chance at living up to that, especially since visionary director Guillermo del Toro chose to focus onThe Shape of Water, which won the best picture Oscar for 2017, instead of returning to directPacific RimUprising. Sure enough,Uprisingis a disappointing, if bold, sequel.
When they do, some vague shenanigans leave the entirety of the worlds defense to a handful of characters: Pentecost, Scott Eastwoods pilot Nate Lambert, and Spaenys Namani, with her fellow cadets. Only four Jaegers remain standing between the Kaiju and global annihilation, and three of them are piloted by half-trained kids. Luckily, theyre aided by some heavy-handed deus ex machina in the form of a secret project Dr. Hermann Gottlieb (the returning Burn Gorman) has been working on.