Pacific Rim Uprising (2018)
Pacific Rim Uprising (2018)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 1 hr. 51 min.

Release Date: March 23rd, 2018 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Steven S. DeKnight Actors: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Tian Jing, Max Zhang, Adria Arjona, Rinko Kikuchi, Ivanna Sakhno

 


 

J

ake Pentecost (John Boyega) hasn’t followed in his father’s footsteps. While heroic Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) sacrificed himself to end the invasion of mammoth monster “Kaijus” ten years ago, Jake now leads the life of a scavenger, pillaging valuable parts from “Jaegers,” the man-made robotic answer to the alien threat. When he encounters young pilot and mechanic Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny) while attempting to steal a Jaegar capacitor, the two are apprehended by the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps.

Given the choice of prison or returning to the PPDC’s pilot academy in China, Jake opts for the latter and Amara becomes the program’s newest cadet. Once there, Jake immediately butts heads with his former teammate Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood), while Amara gets acquainted with her fellow trainees. When technology giant Shao Industries’ leader Liwen Shao (Tian Jing) pushes for drone automation in Jaeger operations, Secretary General Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) resists. But an attack on a council summit in Sydney by a rogue Jaeger forces her hand, allowing Shao’s human-free robots to be approved for launch. When a mysterious malfunction causes the new mechanoids to begin attacking their deployment sites, Jake and Nate must put aside their differences, team up with the fresh recruits, and once again pilot their Jaeger in a cataclysmic showdown to save the world.

The main characters start off as squatters and thieves and various rogues. Jake doesn’t hesitate to double-cross his accomplices, while Amara fights back against law enforcement with a Jaeger of her own, stitched together from stolen parts. Fortunately, these protagonists are detailed as rebels more than criminals, even though they’re recruited to work for the government in lieu of prison sentences (in that classic premise so often used for versatile antiheroes). Amusingly, the governmental enforcers employ tasers against the crooks instead of simply squashing them underfoot.

As in “Independence Day: Resurgence,” “Pacific Rim Uprising” doesn’t ignore the decades’ worth of alien presence and technology entirely, hinting at a human civilization coming to terms with the devastation and fears of extraterrestrial invasion. But strangely, the world hasn’t changed much in ten years, still using the impractical two-pilot system and unwieldy robots that haven’t advanced as much as one might hope. In conjunction with this familiarity is a failed potential to reinvent or exaggerate the enemy monsters, which reappear as slight deviations on the prior hellions. This is the first of many missed opportunities for “Pacific Rim Uprising” to outdo (at least visually or creatively) its predecessor – a goal that has to be a priority for any continuation. And this picture regularly has troubles even matching the might of the original.

Rather than replacing the macho soldiers from before with equivalents, this follow-up introduces a shortage of enlistees, which means that an overenthusiastic little girl and a disgruntled quitter are forced to save the world in place of capable heroes. The Jaeger pilots are no longer larger-than-life he-men. Outside of this, to conform to the standard sequel template, the film is filled with more of the same, expected elements, as if biding its time for a single, cataclysmic climax. Returning supporting characters provide repeated comic routines, sci-fi jargon peppers the script (such as neural handshake, arc whip, and thruster pod), and CG battles cause considerable amounts of destruction (during one sequence, an official states that civilians have been secured in underground shelters, essentially giving permission for the Jaegers to demolish the city – yet the immediately preceding shot showed hundreds of panicking people fleeing for their lives and getting crushed by debris and gargantuan Kaiju footfalls).

Plenty of explanations are depicted via 3D graphics in war rooms or control centers, which gives a lifelessness to the planning, sucking suspense from the chaos (which is further depleted when both sides seem to stand still for minutes on end while the opposition regroups); robots tend to duel other robots more than towering alien creatures; and many of the troops are so limited in their participation that when they perish, it’s difficult to remember what their purpose was (or what their names were). Charlie Day’s Dr. Geiszler in particular doesn’t seem necessary as an employee; what exactly is his job, and why is he at the center of every executive decision or order? It also doesn’t help that the chemistry between the characters is so lagging. Commands are barked, cheeky insults are traded, and un-inspirational speeches are uttered to invigorate generic moments of teamwork, amounting to sequences of tedium (something that should be impossible in a robots vs. monsters flick). There’s noise and pandemonium and impressive toppling of skyscrapers, but this franchise is starting to look a lot like the Transformers movies, which have become indistinguishable from one another, as well as downright boring during repetitive scenes of kicks, punches, and head-over-heel tumbles involving oversized metal limbs.

– The Massie Twins

  • 5/10