Pacific Rim Uprising succeeds in realising the world its predecessor could not. A world where giant robots and monsters fight it out in a battle for control of the earth.
The film serves in a way as a reboot as much as it is a sequel with a few plot threads tying it to 2013’s Pacific Rim, but with a mostly new cast taking the world forward. The up and coming star of John Boyega delivers a leading man performance and provides true warmth and emotion to his character, something that Charlie Hunham failed to do.
I enjoyed the first Pacific Rim for its idea but was disappointed in the overall film, I was glad to hear news that the sequel had finally been green lit, and the Director was staying on but parting ways with Del Toro and Hunham. Controversial opinion incoming but I’ve never been a fan of Guillermo del Toro’s execution while his ideas have always seemed interesting.
Pacific Rim uprising shakes of the bad vibes from its past and tells an interesting story. This is key to a film about giant robots and giant monsters, its daft anyway so why try to ground the story in too much grit. Uprising’s plot happily proceeds with a true sci fi plot that fits its genre. I am also happy to report that the visuals are equally as impressive as the first film and spiritual successors in Godzilla and Kong Skull Island. This makes sense given that it is in part produced by Legendary Pictures that also produced those films and the upcoming sequels. It seems Legendary has found its self-atop a niche genre of huge creature films, it’s because the visuals and details used and added are truly stunning. The Kaiju are as disgusting and visceral in appearance as ever, and the mechanical appearance of the Jeagers is first class. The moments metal and flesh come together both in combat and other areas looks, sounds and feels spectacular. This is the bread and butter of a film of this kind, if these sequences disappoint then the film is a failure so on that front it can be considered a huge success. I will spare another word for the Jeagers, these feel like the products of years of research and development, based on Jeagers from the first films era but improved. This allows for more fluid movements that help the combat sequences feel fast and responsive. It’s not just the monsters that can react quickly now. A small but appreciated detail that improves upon the first film in a canonical way that makes sense. They have awesome weapons and differing fighting styles that when combined on screen feature a real treat for the eyes.
I have already mentioned John Boyega as leading man producing a very good performance, he seems to be only gaining strength as an actor and it makes me wonder why he was not given more to do in Star Wars the Last Jedi that for the most part side lined his character to a different story arc that ultimately proved pointless. Instead the Boyega we see here is more Force Awakens Boyega, he has charm and warmth but an inner determination to do good when the chips are down.
His supporting cast succeed mostly in their roles with each character playing a part in the story. Notable cast include Boyega’s Jeager co-pilot played by Scott Eastwood and to the films credit a back story is briefly touched on but then left, it provides us with the information we need and does not dwell on it needlessly. He portrays a military man who is cold at first but warms over the film and to me this felt genuine for a pair of characters who have known each other since childhood, bonded to the point of sharing 1 mind inside a Jeager and then headed in different directions only to be reunited later on.
A mention for Adria Arjona who play the films female military character and is not really given much to do beside be a potential love interest in a film that does not need one.
The female strength in this film comes from Cailee Spaeny’s Amara, a young girl with a talent for technology. In many ways this is a similar role to the one Isabella Moner plays in Transformers the Last Knight but Spaeny does a much better job with the character and personality of a young girl who had to make it on her own after personal tragedy but for film reasons can build a fully functioning Jeager herself. The dynamic between her and Boyega is evident from the first scene they share, and this feels like where the heart of the film lies, the humanity comes from the relationship between the two of them while the fun comes from the big robots fighting. Her interactions with fellow Jeager cadets also feel genuine. A great performance from an actress I hope to see more of in the future. If Uprising fails to kick start the franchise I hope it can at least put this actress on the path for bigger roles in the future.
Reprising their roles from the first film are scientists Newt and Gottileb played by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman. Gorman feels like he is overdoing the mad scientist role in truth and is a big distracting from the film however Day is as funny and charming as ever while providing some proof he can show some emotional depth from his characters in ways it would be too much of a spoiler to state. Neither of them steals the show but are a bit of fun when on screen.
I do hope Pacific Rim Uprising can be a light for the series and that a sequel with this cast of characters see’s the light of day. While there is no big set up for a third film (much to my relief as I was worried it would be another ‘Amazing Spiderman 2’ fiasco) there is a minor set up at the very end. One that it would be a shame not to see but if it never happens then it does not detract from a very good film that can stand on its own regardless of viewer knowledge of the series or the first film.
If I had to score Pacific Rim Uprising I would happily give it an 8.0 /10.
The characters are wonderfully made real by a group of talented actors. Boyega gives a true leading performance aided by his on-screen chemistry with Cailee Spaeny’s Amara. The visuals are impressive and the set pieces top drawer. One or two characters fall flat and feel tacked in purely for plot purposes and this detracts from the film slightly, but a strong Sci-Fi story helps to paper over those cracks and come together to leave behind a strongly enjoyable film.