Title: Pacific Rim: Uprising
Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote:
HOMER: Back, you robots! Nobody ruins my family vacation but me!
Brief Plot Synopsis: Was this breach really necessary?
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 1.5 Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots out of 5
Tagline: "Rise up."
Better Tagline: "I like 'em big and stupid."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Jake Pentecost (John Boyega) isn't exactly a chip off the old block. While dad Stacker was the hero who canceled the Apocalypse (and had a cooler name), Jake sells forbidden tech to fund his degenerate lifestyle. It's during a trip to acquire said materiel that he runs afoul of 1) spunky teen Jaeger builder Amara (Cailee Spaeny), and 2) the Pan Pacific Defense Corps, who — in the person of Jake's sister Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), offer he and Amara the option to join the PPDC instead of go to jail. Good thing, too, for while the Breach hasn't troubled mankind for a decade, it's only a matter of time.
"Critical" Analysis: 2013’s Pacific Rim benefited from, among other things, the nostalgia that comes from putting on film the kind of battles many of us fought in our own backyards. Mainly though, director Guillermo Del Toro took what could’ve literally been a movie about banging action figures together and gave it an epic scope, bolstered by stoic performances from the likes of Idris Elba and Ron Perlman.
Naturally, none of them return for Uprising (well, Del Toro is a producer and has a “visual consultant” credit). Comic relief Burn Gorman and Charlie Day are back, and their shenanigans unfortunately set the bulk of the tone. Rinko Kinkuchi’s return would be welcome, except her character is no longer a badass Jaeger pilot in her own right, but rather a bureaucratic functionary who does little besides advance her half-brother’s career.
Another significant factor in the original PR’s success is also absent here, and that's the balance between super-sized fisticuffs and Gorman and Day’s side-plot. In Uprising, elements of the former exist, but the rest of the movie is remarkably sparse on combat (the latest trailer shows almost the entirety of the climactic battle). As director Steven S. DeKnight is more interested in dwelling on our hero’s journey. Such as it is. As to the latter, Day’s heel turn is the most unexpected and, as it turns out, Del Toro-esque element of the whole movie
Speaking of lack of action, there are three total battles, of which only the final one captures the spirit of the original. Everything else is bogged down in trying to make Jake and his teen trainees interesting (screenwriter T.S. Nowlin worked on the Maze Runner movies, which doesn't inspire confidence). For his part, Boyega is quite good, and his interaction with Spaeny is about the only high point of this storyline.
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And then there’s Scott Eastwood, who plays Nate, lead trainer for the PPDC and Jake's former co-pilot. Nate presents early on as an antagonist, but eventually shows his good side, to the surprise of no one. Maybe Eastwood isn't good enough of an actor, or maybe the movie's four writers (including DeKnight) didn't want to spend too much time on human conflict when there were red herrings to throw around.
Not to get too inside baseball, but over a fourth of the original Pacific Rim's box office haul came from China. Legendary Pictures was sold to that country’s Wanda Group in 2016, which made the sequel more or less a given. More to the point, it renders the diversion about the Chinese Shao Corporation possibly being behind the rogue Jaeger particularly implausible. Though Jing Tian (The Great Wall, Kong: Skull Island) as Liwen Shao is appreciably bad ass.
But by the time we get to the boss fight, er, climactic battle...who cares? Granted, saving the world is a noble cause and stuff, but rarely has a battle for the fate of mankind felt so unearned. We mostly only care about Jake because his dad was awesome, and Amara because she's a smart kid whose family got stomped on by a extradimensional Triceratops. No other character is even as half-assedly fleshed out as those two.
Just about everything in Pacific Rim: Uprising is going through the motions of the original, at least this time we get several occasions to ask "Which scowl makes Scott Eastwood look most like his dad?"