Pacific Rim Uprising has a specific audience. If two hours of live-action-anime giant robots (called Jaegers) fighting Godzilla-like monsters (Kaiju) rising up from the sea from another dimension is not your thing then you can stop reading now and save some time. The same applies if you’re looking for the return of Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, and director Guillermo Del Toro from the original 2013 Pacific Rim. None of them are present in this sequel. However, if you’re a fan of the genre then it’s solid action Science Fiction that doesn’t make you work too hard to enjoy it.
“Boyega’s trademark energetic charm and swagger grounds the whole film, making it fun and lively.”
John Boyega heads up the cast this time as Jake Pentecost, son of Idris Elba’s character Stacker Pentecost who sacrificed himself in the first movie to close the Kaiju’s undersea breach into our world. Somehow the Kaiju are back and Jake must join the fight to defend the world.
Comfortably familiar genre motifs are deployed. The boastful boot-camp repartee calls back Starship Troopers and Ender’s Game. Slam-bang action, rapid fire dialog, and illogical sequences are like the breathless mania of Buckaroo Banzai. Manga fans will enjoy the authoritative hardware in the Jaeger technical details, evocative of Masamune Shirow’s art in Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell.
Telepathic connections (called drifting) between two or more pilots are required to operate the titanic machines, but the pilots must be compatible and open to sharing minds when engaged in combat. No matter how much trash talk takes place, when they’re in the drift they are vulnerable. There are no secrets, which makes for interesting character interaction. CGI-heavy monster movies generally aren’t expected to explore character development, but director Steven DeKnight delivers relationships we care about. This puts the film in a class far above Transformers, the other giant-robot-apocalypse series.
Boyega’s trademark energetic charm and swagger grounds the whole film, making it fun and lively. If you were facing down a raging Kaiju you’d be inspired to suit up with Jake in command. Boyega has also led a fight against aliens once before in Attack the Block, an absolute must-see film. Everything he touches is improved by his dynamic presence. He has natural star quality.
“…monster movies generally aren’t expected to explore character development, but director DeKnight delivers relationships we care about…“
It runs long. A tighter edit would have been friendlier. Nobody really needs more than 90 minutes of robot v monster. Supporting cast members Burn Gorman and Charlie Day play active roles this time instead of the B plot shenanigans they had the first go-round. Both Pacific Rim movies share a distinct sensibility as English language films made for American audiences set in Asia. Even though it’s not a serious drama, the filmmaker deserves credit for diversity in casting and treating cultures with respect.
Rumor has it that Charlie Hunnam may return as Raleigh Becket in a third chapter to keep the franchise rolling. It would be ideal if Del Toro also returned to the helm. Five years wait for a sequel could have resulted in fans losing interest, but the film is good enough that it’s worth revisiting the world of Pacific Rim. Don’t stress too much over the details: just enjoy the leviathan smackdowns as towering Jaegers battle terrifying Kaiju.
Pacific Rim Uprising (2018). Directed by Steven S. DeKnight. Written by Steven S. DeKnight, Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, T.S. Nowlin. Starring John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny, Burn Gorman, Charlie Day.
7 out of 10