I am not a huge fan of the first “Pacific Rim” movie. The Guillermo del Toro movie may feature great actions sequences and a stirring speech or two, but the main storyline is a strictly paint-by-numbers affair, one we have all seen told before and told better. Some of the kooky science-y bits are fun as well, but it is all dragged down by the terrible story involving main character Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam).
Wonderfully, the sequel, “Pacific Rim Uprising,” jettisons Becket. In fact, it features barely any references to him, even if this 10 year’s later tale is an outgrowth of the events of that first film. While this loss of Becket is to the good, “Uprising,” which is directed by Steven S. DeKnight, also jettisons any of the shreds of logic that might be found in the original film.
The film is still about Jaegers, giant machines which require two people to operate them, battling Kaiju, aliens from another universe, as well as the general struggles and conflicts of the humans who pilot the Jaegers, but the way it all fits together is different. Or, more accurately, the way the pieces fail to fit together is different.
The lead character here is Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), the son of Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) from the first film. While he washed out of the Jaeger life, he’s required to go back because they need help. Yes, in one of the truly puzzling things about this movie, it may be 10 years later but humanity seems to only have a couple of Jaeger pilots and a total of four Jaegers built during that time.
It is true that Cadets are being trained to pilot Jaegers, but for whatever reason, humanity seems to have decided that almost being entirely wiped out by a group of baddies they desperately fear will return hasn’t led to any major attempts to prevent such an extinction. Of course, the movie is only able to proceed because of this complete and total failing on the part of humanity.
Consequently, “Pacific Rim Uprising” is a movie that works best on the biggest screen possible, with the higher functions of one’s brain turned all the way down. It is, like Michael Bay’s “Transformers” movies, entirely about seeing massive things hit each other really hard and scenes of cataclysmic destruction.
In fact, there are moments in this movie, particularly with a mini-Jaeger made by Amari Namani (Cailee Spaeny), that feel as though one is simply watching bits of a “Transformers’ movie that got left on the editing room floor and slapped into “Uprising.” It is more than a little silly.
Everything about “Uprising” is more than a little silly. From the way the filmmakers fit in returning characters Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day), and Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman); to the way the new cadets are depicted; to the aforementioned lack of planning on humanity’s part. Even the parts that work, like a twist or two, are silly.
The original “Pacific Rim” spends a lot of time explaining the world and the way everything works with Jaegers and aliens, but “Uprising” zips right past most of that stuff, including making it seem like a lot of folks are drift compatible with one another (only compatible individuals can pilot a Jaeger together). Storylines introduced with new characters like Jaeger pilot Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood) or private company big wig Liwen Shao (Tian Jing) change or end abruptly, offering little explanation as they proceed in the film.
The action, truly, is the most (only?) enjoyable bit of the entire affair, and even that fails to be as compelling as might have been. Elements of the fight have a complete illogic to them, especially in the final battle where more than one element of the plan works for reasons that make no sense whatsoever.
Without a doubt, moments of “Pacific Rim Uprising” are epic and fun, but this is a dumbed-down take on franchise. To its credit, the bits that don’t make any sense aren’t offensive, but that’s small consolation. The movie might be able to put a smile on your face as you’re watching one hulking beast knock into another, but after the credits roll, your expression will change into a quizzical one as you puzzle out why exactly any of the movie went as it did.
photo credit: Universal Pictures