Pacific Rim Uprising – Review

Monsters vs Robots: Round 2!

With Earth recovering from the havoc of the first film, Pacific Rim Uprising has John Boyega playing Idris Elba’s son, as he battles yet more monsters in yet more robots, all while trying to find his own place in the world.

I’m going to start by picking on the title of this film, because it’s been bugging me for a long time. What is the impression we’re supposed to take away from these banal additions to titles? Phrases like “uprising”, “revolutions” and “dark of the moon” are always tacked on the end, as if they lend some extra purpose to their being yet another film in a franchise. Sure, Star Wars did it first and has had blips, but not every franchise under the twin suns needs it. Pacific Rim was an enjoyable and promising romp, but good grief I hope they don’t milk this the way they have with the never-ending Transformers franchise.

And that leads us nicely onto the film itself. Missing the directoral prowess and dedication of Guillermo Del Toro, this might as well just be another Transformers movie. What made that first film exciting was the homage paid to both the old monster movies and the futuristic robot animes, both derived from Japan and made popular in the US much later. This borrowing from classic eras is something Del Toro has recently won big awards for with The Shape of Water

The difference here is that you get a standard heroic-action film, played out with none of the kick-ass showdowns of the first. I can recall the robots from the first film, tied characteristically to their pilots, but the new ones are forgettable. Plenty of buildings get trashed, but the beats are wholly unoriginal, and maybe this is a tainted review because the first film did it all so well, but then it begs the question: why bother at all? The answer is: money-hungry studios.

‘Because the first film did it all so well, it begs the question: why bother at all?’


Delving into the story, the idea is that drone-based Jaegers (the robots) are now being designed to protect Earth in the event of more Kaiju (monsters) breaking through to our dimension. Bring in the scavenger Jake (Boyega) and his new friend Amara (Cailee Spaeny), who are recruited by the normal Jaeger builders on the eve of new enemies arising and you have…some sort of showdown?

Snake-like studio motive alert: China gets a big role to play in all this, presumably to try and make this film work for the massive Chinese audience. There is something to be said for showing nations working together and presenting a united front in our current political climate, but this connection is tentative in the film and quite obviously a grab for cash.

Boyega is believable as a cool-slacker, but off-screen he seems like such a nice bloke that it’s hard to believe him being a mean badass, too, but it is nice that he’s getting the blockbuster breaks he deserved after Attack The Block. The film forgets that you’re there for the moody, night-time neon fights and the cool robot designs, instead rehashing old robots (for the most part) and expecting Scott Eastwood doing his best Chris Evans impression to make you feel roused.

Perhaps all this is too harsh though, after all, Del Toro is still a producer…but what does that mean? Again, it’s probably just another snide move on the part of the studio to get bums on seats. Steven S. DeKnight is making his directorial debut here after some mediocre television stuff, and it must be a tough act to follow – presumably he thought he could, and he gave it a try (he is part of the writers room for the Transformers franchise, which explains a lot). The film has some fun moments utilising a younger crew of jaeger pilots, although their involvement in the final fights made me wonder if I’d missed what happened to all the other seasoned pilots – perhaps I did.

The only way you could have made a decent sequel for this franchise was to crank up the focus on design, get more stylish, more honed and find an allegorical hook. Using the comedic-relief side-characters from the first film is also a mistake, because while they help to connect the films, they are given a wildly different role to play and simply can’t live up to it – particularly Charlie Day (which hurts me to say as a It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia fan).

This film feels like DeKnight was riding a wave of unwarranted euphoria from his Transformers work and simply carried on his work to this. With zero style, the understandably hammy plot and dialogue are hung are out to dry this time. Please don’t make a third film, and if you must make one, please take a look at the roots of the material and bring in a slicker, more uniquely invested director.

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