Pacific Rim Uprising Review: A rather passable, mindless actioner
A less-inventive, more-warring sequel to the 2013 original
If you’re in the mood – if you really are in it – you will find that few things are as entertaining as watching massive robots get ripped to pieces by giant otherworldly creatures. You get a lot of that in Pacific Rim: Uprising, the less-inventive, more-warring sequel to the 2013 original by Guillermo Del Toro (he’s just the producer, this time). Look away, if you’re the sort to insist that a film show inventiveness in writing, depth in character interaction, and believable arcs in transformation. Even its enjoyable action set-pieces occur between familiar adversaries. But to be fair to director Steven DeKnight, he does show evidence that he’s aware of this weakness. He even gets one of the characters to comment as much. The character, standing on a rooftop, observes a monster get taken apart by jaegers (huge robots in the film’s parlance), and wryly comments, “Oh, giant robots. Really original, guys!”
Cast: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Jing Tian, Cailee Spaeny
Director: Steven DeKnight
The sequel is set a decade after the events of the first film, in which the world comes close to getting wiped out. The central character, Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), is the son of a Kaiju war hero, and has to learn to fill the very big boots of his father. In a sense, this film too is about the coming together of a master and a young trainee (Amara, played by Cailee Spaeny) to… what else… save the world. It’s about the two loners learning to belong. In a film that’s not as superficial as this, you’d have learned more about their insecurities, and felt warmed by the eventual transformation. Uprising, instead, can’t be bothered, and simply stops with the cursory conversation here and there to delve into these matters. This is the sort of film in which a character, a scene after failing to save his sister from death, doesn’t seem particularly scarred. This is also the sort of film in which its hero finds himself in the all-too-familiar pre-climax ritual of having to deliver a rousing speech. He starts off saying he’s not cut out for such speeches, and it feels like a clever dig on the familiar trope. However, he goes on to deliver such a speech anyway. “Come on! Let’s save the world!” he says and leads his troops to battle, as you shake your head in disapproval, before the metal-crunching action tries to coax you into forgetting your disappointment.
And it almost does. There are lots of impressive set pieces. One gorgeous sequence happens in the icy landscape of Siberia. Another occurs amid skyscrapers, as a kaiju and jaegers make tall buildings feel like Lego sets. The first film had one big sequence set in the ocean, and once this sequel shows you mayhem in snow, and later, in a city, you realise there’s not a lot of other places it can go to for more action, except, say, the sky. And just as well, one jaeger flies into the sky. And it seems that there’s a lot more of that to come, given the film ends with the humans promising to take the offensive to the Precursors (the alien villains of this universe). Well, if you don’t have new stories to tell, you simply find new places to tell old stories in.