Pacific Rim Uprising review - Rock 'em and sock 'em

Pacific Rim Uprising review - Rock 'em and sock 'em

Director: Steven DeKnight

Cast: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day,  Burn Gorman

A decade after the end of ‘Pacific Rim’, when Gipsy Danger was heroically sacrificed to seal the Breach and end the Kaiju threat, the world has rebuilt both itself and the Jaeger program. However, unknown to anyone, secret forces conspire across universes to reopen the breaches and let loose the horde of death once again.’

Picking off with a montage from the first film, Pacific Rim Uprising starts rather quiet, unlike the first one, which put viewers smack in the middle of a battle between robots and monsters. Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), son of the hero of the War, Stacker (Idris Elba), is making out a small but comfortable living salvaging and selling whatever scrap he can, be it cars or Jaeger parts. Following an encounter with a spunky and street-smart Amara Namani (Cailee Speeny), however, he returns to the crosshairs of the PPDC, now a global consortium with a massive Jaeger fleet, and is basically goaded into rejoining with Amara as a candidate by his adopted sister, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) and partnered up with his former co-pilot, Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood).

In the 10 years he’s been off-grid though, Jake hasn’t learned one thing: The Jaeger program is threatened. Taking a cue from the developing situation in the real world, drones are being built, obstinately marketed as a compliment to the fleet, but pilots aren’t convinced. Soon, though, something far more sinister than mere remote-controlled robots surfaces in the form of Obsidian Fury; a mysterious, rogue Jaeger that can and does give Gipsy Avenger a run for the money, setting off the plot, which seems to start off as a conspiracy film and closes as what one should expect from a giant monster movie: fist fights with more sheer visceral destruction than in Man of Steel or The Avengers, culminating in an epic and tense, albeit predictable third act.

The film rises and falls on the performances from its actors. Unfortunately, most of it involves falling. Barring John Boyega’s absorbing performance as Jake; and the Newt-Hermann duo, played by the ever comical Charlie Day- Burn Gorman duo, most performances feel lackluster, if not outright forced. Perhaps the script could have attempted to do more with the cadets barring Amara, who even gets a flashback to her credit, but it seems to drop the ball somewhere around the end of the first act. Worst, however, is Hollywood’s continuing tradition to kill characters off the screen if they can’t or won’t return to the sequels.

Technically, the film is brilliant considering its relatively modest budget of $150 million. It manages to convincingly create a sense of scale and weight to both the Jaegers and Kaiju comparable to the first film. On the lighting side, the film benefits greatly from going to the neon-lit darkness of Hong Kong to the bright sunlit backdrops of China, Siberia, and Mega Tokyo. The Kaiju, though fewer in number than the first film, are all colourful yet menacing, each as unique as can be and could easily give people nightmares for days to come if they could exist in the real world. The movements, punches, and hits landed by all parties involved in the conflict feel like they have weight, one thing which I was admittedly most concerned about from the trailers, but the CG does look too ‘clean’, even for showing destruction, compared to Pacific Rim’s almost perpetual ‘dirty’, war-ravaged look.

The music could have been much, much better, but barring the odd inclusion of Ramin Djawadi’s catchy guitar world from the first film, much of it is forgettable and somehow seems to dissolve into the action instead of uplifting it.

Conclusion: Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Pacific Rim’ was an elaborately constructed love letter to giant monster/mecha anime and movies of the past. Built on an extremely silly premise of monsters being sent out from a hole in the bottom of the ocean, the film delivered a spectacle worth beholding on nothing but the biggest possible screen money could afford.

Naturally, any prospect of a sequel had to be carefully measured as the film only barely managed to eek out its budget (Asia is to thank for this), and as such, Legendary has managed to hit the ball as well as any studio could possibly hope to. Considering that, Steven DeKnight has certainly delivered a decent follow-up and I hope that a third film gets made eventually.

Score: 3.5/5

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