'Pacific Rim: Uprising'
The original ‘Pacific Rim’ had no right to be any good, but in the hands of a strong filmmaker (who now has an Oscar to back him up), it ended up being a very satisfying and all-around entertaining blockbuster. With trailers that look just as unappealing as those for the first movie did, I hoped that the sequel would make me eat crow again. Sadly, it’s doesn’t. ‘Pacific Rim: Uprising’ is as bland as it looks.
Guillermo del Toro opted out of the sequel so he could make ‘The Shape of Water’. In his stead, the studio gave it to a director with three episodes of ‘Angel’, two episodes of ‘Smallville’, one episode of ‘Dollhouse’, and one episode of ‘Daredevil’ under his belt. It comes as no surprise that ‘Uprising’ feels like an expensive made-for-TV movie.
Set ten years after the events of the first film, the sequel opens with a voiceover explanation of what has happened during the interim. The red flags begin here. The intro feels like it was yanked out of a ‘Transformers’ movie. Although we saw how the Pacific breach (the underwater lightning portal that allowed Kaiju to enter our dimension) was closed in the last movie, the world now seems to be completely polluted with busted jaegers (the piloted mech that were used to fight the kaiju) and kaiju skeletons. It’s as if the entire Pacific Rim region has become a bony junkyard for waste that wasn’t there ten years ago.
Like del Toro, Charlie Hunnam decided to pass on the sequel, so the face of the franchise has been swapped out for John Boyega and a smudged-on shadow of a mustache. His voiceover intro explains that he’s the son of the late Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba’s heroic character from the original movie). Knowing that he could never live up to his father’s ranks, he’s gone the opposite direction and become a Han Solo type who smuggles and steals and charms his way out of sticky situations. After getting busted in an opening sequence, his adopted sister Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi, one of three returning cast members) pulls some strings to keep him out of prison if he’ll follow in his father’s footsteps and head a team of jaeger pilots.
At this point, the structure of the movie drastically veers from the original. The first movie didn’t get tangled up in plot and science and explanations. Instead, it focused on robots punching monsters, which is what we came to see. It knew exactly what it was and delivered the goods in the most fun fashion.
The ingredients for a good ‘Pacific Rim’ movie are present in ‘Uprising’, but the recipe is off. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman return as the bumbling mad scientists, but they’re wasted. We don’t see a kaiju until the third act. ‘Uprising’ has an extremely boring first half that gets bogged down in post-breach politics, military contracts, double-agents and hurt feelings. The magic is lost. Instead of a simple and fun action movie, we’re handed a braindead and tone-deaf action flick that tries to be more than it is and functions in the same league as the latter ‘Transformers’ sequels.
As someone who loved ‘Pacific Rim’, I really wanted ‘Uprising’ to be good. Although it has some enjoyable moments, the movie is pretty much a franchise killer. While the foreign box office may entice the studio to greenlight another sequel, I don’t look forward to seeing any more.