REVIEW: ‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ Is A Monster Sized Disappointment

Get rid of/kill off the main characters from the first one? Check. Create plot holes that invalidate the first one? Check. Feel less impact from the action despite being technically more on screen? Check. “Pacific Rim: Uprising” is officially a bad movie sequel.

The film takes place 10 years after the events of the 2013 film. Peace has largely returned to the Earth after mankind stopped an interdimensional invasion of giant monsters. However, the Jaeger program, which built the giant robots to fight monsters is still active, for some reason. Also, new candidates are being trained to pilot those robots, for some reason.

Right off the bat, there’s a bit of a disconnect on whether everyone thinks the aliens will come back or not. But, whatever. The film’s story really picks up with the introduction of Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), the son of first film hero Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba). Jake is a rebellious young man who was once a pilot himself but flunked out and has now turned to petty crime. One day, while getting himself into trouble, he meets a teen girl named Amara (Cailee Spaeny) and the two end up involved in an unlicensed robot.

As a result, they’re offered a way out of trouble by way of the Jaeger training program. There, Jake meets again with a rival pilot, Nate (Scott Eastwood) and Amara meets a bunch of other young cadets. Just as they’re settling in to their new roles, though, new threats to the world start coming up.

The major issue with “Uprising” is apparent right away. This is less a sequel and more a reboot. Now, I understand that not everyone liked the original film, but I really enjoyed it, so imagine the disappointment when it turns out that the “Pacific Rim” sequel is more like a loosely connected spin-off. But this isn’t just the ranting of a fan. No, not only is “Uprising” a poor follow-up, but it’s also largely unfocused.

This issue seemed to stem from the fact that this movie didn’t really know what it wanted to be. The film tries to have it both ways, as it wants to tell the washed up pilot who has to get back in action tale (which was already done in the original) and a fairly standard young adult novel story. The latter is where things really go off the rails, too.

An audience can have a connection to Boyega’s character since he is related to the first film and the actor portraying him actually gives a fairly good performance. That’s not to say it’s great, but it’s watchable. However, Amara’s story is far less interesting or compelling. I felt like I was watching a low grade young adult sci-fi. This is made all the more apparent by the other young cadets, who are completely unmemorable here.

Another detraction from this aspect was the fact that none of the actors portraying the cadets are very good. Spaeny also struggles here, bringing little screen presence to a character that was already lacking personality.

Boyega has a lot of charm and charisma in any film he’s in and here it’s no different. However, not only was his character too similar to the protagonist of the last film, but Boyega himself seemed to lack direction at times. With all that said, he does bring energy to the screen and is probably the best part of the flick.

So, for this next section, I’m going to go into a couple spoilers here. Normally I try to avoid them, but here there are just some character details I can’t overlook.

In the first act, Mako Mori, (played by Rinko Kikuchi), a hero from the first movie, is killed off. Why couldn’t she be the protagonist, or at least co-protagonist with Boyega? Hell, the film could’ve just done without Boyega and made the film about Mako mentoring Amara.

But no, instead we get Boyega’s character teaming up with some stock rival guy named Nate.

That was bad decision No. 1. No. 2 was the direction they took with Charlie Day’s character Newton. They decide to take his character on a path that’s so ridiculous that it’s laughable and unconvincing. It actually gets pretty cringy toward the end of the film.

Then there’s the action. Look, I’m a long-time anime fan so I’ve always enjoyed giant mechs and again, I really liked the first film. However, this film, despite having more giant robot stuff on screen, carries much less weight than its predecessor. Not only is the emotion lacking, but so is the scale of the first. Besides some tall buildings falling, there’s nothing that really puts the giant robots on full display, at least not like the whole “boat sword” sequence from the last one did.

This, again, is likely because of the director. Unlike the original, “Uprising” isn’t directed by visionary Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro, but instead by Steven DeKnight, who has very little feature film experience.

“Uprising” is a disappointing time at the theater. Even with some cool effects, the film isn’t that great to look at, the acting and characters are largely forgettable and the story doesn’t flow well. Sadly, it’s a 1 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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