Effects heavy Pacific Rim: Uprising looks and sounds good, but characters leave much to be desired.
When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for the next installment of my favorite franchise films, namely Star Trek or Star Wars. What’s interesting is that in between the installments, and after Return of the Jedi, other fantasy films filled the gap that I didn’t need to see my favorite characters in their own environment: I got to see the same types of characters in different environments and it allowed me to enjoy my franchise characters and their adventures that much more.
That’s why I struggle with films like Pacific Rim: Uprising. I get the same characters and the same adventures, but instead of allowing the adventure to happen, we get trapped within our own worst fears and use humor to quell those fears.
Steven S. DeKnight, who co-wrote the script with T.S. Knowlin, Emily Carmichael, and Kira Snyder (based on a story by DeKnight and Knowlin (The Maze Runner) set the film 10 years after the events of Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim. John Boyega (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) plays Jake Pentecost. The script makes use of flashbacks to link Jake to Stacker Pentecost, his father from the first film, to try and create friction between the two characters.
Jake is a drifter and when Amara Namani (Cailee Spaney) catches his attention. In an early action sequence, Spaney proves her future worth, but not before getting caught. The scene plays very much like Rey’s opening sequence from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The difference is the scene builds on their mutual need for each other. And then humor creeps in, breaking up the relationship before it can go too far.
Scott Eastwood plays Nate Lambert, a foil for Jake, and not necessarily a solid foil. The story unfolds in a way where they eventually need each other in order to stave off yet another Kaiju attack. Along for the ride are returning characters Jing Tian (Liwen Shao), Newt Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman). Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori joins the cast for this outing.
Steven DeKnight has done an admirable job carrying the torch that Guillermo del Toro set in motion. In Uprising, his canvas is expansive, where the Kaiju and the Jaegers can openly fight one another because we are limited in the number of Kaiju versus Jaeger. It helps when del Toro also serves as an executive producer on the film, helping to guide the design of the film. However, DeKnight has certainly created something that I wouldn’t mind revisiting, effects-wise.
To that end, the special effects are something to behold as two behemoths go at one another, crumbling skyscrapers and gnawing and scraping at one another, until only the most fit are left standing. The use of scale in the story is imperative too.
It reminds us of just how fragile life is, but also just how small we are. Yet, we are not insignificant. We have a place in the universe, even if our mad scientists duke it out on another level. While the aforementioned humor repeatedly hampers our central characters, the peripheral characters are more genuine; they guide us through the storyline, such as it is.
I enjoyed Pacific Rim: Uprising for the fact that I could just sit back for an hour and 41 minutes and not think about anything else. That’s also its danger, because it presents real-world themes that needed more exposition, which was traded in favor of expedience.
Pacific Rim: Uprising is in theaters now and is rated PG-13 by the MPAA.