The original Pacific Rim was not necessarily a film crying out for a sequel. An irresistible blend of two different forms of exciting, high-concept nonsense, its premise of Giant Monsters (Kaiju) vs Giant Robots (Yaegers) was the kind of thing that in any layman’s hands could be bland and generic, the kind of fare that Asylum would make if they had a budget (and in fact, did, for anyone who saw 2013’s Atlantic Rim) but it happened to be in the hands of Guillermo Del Toro, one of the few directors who can do better work often with more expensive toybox to play with. It was also an enjoyably closed narrative with an end credits tag that played more as a joke on the film than set-up for a sequel. It did, however, make enough money to warrant a sequel so here we are asking the question that profit aside, who needed this?
Pacific Rim: Uprising stars Star Wars’ John Boyega as Jake Pentecost (thereby having had Boyega play Finn & Jake. Adventure Time fans rejoice), son of Idris Elba’s character from the first film, living a decade after the events therein, he is a playboy and scavenger who gets himself in some trouble and is forced to re-enlist with the Robot Corps or the Yaeger Force or whatever their names are, frankly, it’s a sequel to a film about Gundam vs Godzilla so do you really need to know the plot? Yes, there are some bits about plans to have unmanned Yaegers but this isn’t a film for those of you looking for a subtle and sophisticated commentary on drone warfare, it is, however, a lot of fun. Also, with a lack of Elba to anchor the film, Boyega is a more charismatic and likeable central figure than Charlie Hunnam was, keeping the human side of things grounded in some very watchable central performances. The actual action itself is cleanly shot and lit and achieves something which still feels very impressive: showing robots and monsters in the daytime and the CGI not looking forced or out of place.
Sadly, it’s main problem is that it’s not the first film. Where it seemed like the original was almost a giddy dream, the sort of film that you can’t actually believe got the money required to make it but you’re supremely glad it did, it was hokey in places, yes, but invested with a childlike glee about its very existence and an artistic flair that elevated it. This was very fun but never felt more than really a contractually mandated sequel. It doesn’t have the same life to it. It’s still robots v monsters and that’s never not going to be fun when done right and this is indeed done right but it just never feels like there’s much of a soul to it with a lot of the original’s flaws worn with less affection on the sleeve and almost taken as standards of the genre. Even the open sequel-baiting of a full young cast of the ‘next generation’ of Yaeger pilots and a mid-credits tag seem tacked on for the sake of trying to build a franchise. If this were just a sequel built solely for entertainment value, it could do a lot more than the pressure of trying to build an extended universe.
Ultimately, even if it’s not quite the source material, it delivers mostly what you’d want: there’s giant robots, even larger monsters, there are well-choreographed explosions, fight scenes, chase scenes and a lot of the emotional content is occasionally effective and the comic relief is frequently quite funny. I’m still not sure if it does enough to justify its existence but certainly, it does enough to entertain for the full length of its running time (a time that is below 2 hours, almost a novelty for the modern blockbuster) and you know what? If they did make a third part as they so clearly want to based on the ending, I’d be there to see that one aswell. That’s about as much as you need from a film like this, right?
Dir: Steven S. DeKnight
Scr: Steven S. DeKnight, Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, T.S Nowlin.
Cast: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Jing Tian, Cailee Spaeny, Rinko Kikuchi, Burn Gorman, Adriana Arjona, Zhang Jin, Charlie Day
Prod: John Boyega, Cale Boyter, Guillermo Del Toro, Mary Parent, Femi Oguns, Thomas Tull, John Jahini
Music: Lorne Balfe
Run Time: 111 minutes
Pacific Rim Uprising is available on Digital July 16 2018 and on 4k UHD, 3D Blu-Ray, Blu-Ray, DVD and Steelbook July 30 2018
Pacific Rim: Uprising is Available on DVD, Blu-Ray & Digital Download now.