“Pacific Rim: Uprising” Movie Review


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     When it’s 2013 run in theaters concluded, director Guillermo del Toro’s “Pacific Rim” certainly didn't have the kind of performance that would’ve indicated we would be getting a sequel.  All in all, the story of humankind’s battle against giant reptilian like creatures sent from another dimension looked as though it had reached its conclusion in the first film, though there was always the idea the creatures could somehow come back.  Director Steven DeKnight’s “Pacific Rim: Uprising” essentially follows that path, concocting a plot with co-screenwriters Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, and T.S. Nowlin that returns the massive city destroying creatures ten years later in a scenario that has the world on the brink of destruction.  All of it is silliness of course, but well made silliness.  It’s like “Transformers” meets “Independence Day” with all of the CGI eye candy one could possibly handle over two hours, as the actors generally function as stand ins amongst the mayhem.

     For this second go around, DeKnight employs a sort of “Starship Troopers” approach to plotting and casting in that the primary leads are young, wide eyed, and full of youthful misguided enthusiasm, as they are led into battle by a handful of grizzled veterans from the first war.  To quickly catch you up, the world went to war against the powerful “Kaiju” by fighting them with their own man made machines called “Jaegers”.  The machines, which must be piloted by two people with the ability to essentially tie their brains together into a single entity capable of powering the Jaegers into battle, have the look of what we have already seen countless times in the “Transformers” films.  The pilots are positioned side by side in the head and actually perform the movements of the man like machines in sync.  So if the Jaeger is running, the pilots inside are as well.

     In the first film, Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentecost saved the world while sacrificing his own life in a move thought to shield the Kaiju from terrorizing the planet for good.  Now years later, his son, Jake, played by “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” star John Boyega, has apparently left the world of Jaeger piloting for a life of partying, hustling, and surviving amongst the ruins remaining from the first war.  Of course circumstances lead him back to the Jaeger academy where he is again charged with training young recruit pilots who have their own dreams of someday fighting the Kaiju should they come back.  Well, it just so happens they're in luck.  

     When an attack by a rogue Jaeger lays waste to downtown Sydney, it is discovered the machine is a hybrid of Jaeger parts and organic Kaiju technology.  This means there is someone on Earth behind a plot not only to utilize this technology for evil purposes, but also someone who may attempt to open the gates for the Kaiju to reenter the world and destroy it once and for all.  This leaves Jake, his partner Nate (Scott Eastwood), and all of the youngsters, led by Amara (Cailee Spaeny) to pilot the remaining Jaegers and stop the Kaiju from carrying out their plan which mainly includes playing like a bowl in a China shop within the downtown area of every major city.  You will marvel at the trillions of dollars in damage caused by these battles in mere seconds, as the PG-13 rating spares us of the off camera carnage that must be taking place as Jaegers pick up buildings and hurl them at their enemy with no apparent assurance they are currently unoccupied, though there is mention in the final battle that the entire population of Tokyo has somehow made it underground.

     It would easy to pick a film like this apart, as the inconsistencies are frequent and plentiful.  There are times when one may ask why it is necessary for two Jaeger pilots to preempt a movement or method of attack by verbalizing it first when they are supposedly linked together mentally.  Why yell out “Plasma Cannon”, when the other pilot should have picked up the thought and just acted on it?  Doesn't saying it just slow down their attack and reaction time when precision in the face of peril would be their biggest advantage?  There’s also the issue of practically every line spoken being said in a heroic and over the top manner that causes unnecessary overacting and creates a “Power Rangers” like vibe in something that is already as cheesy as a block of Velveeta.  But there are times some of this actually works, particularly where Production Designer Stefan Dechant (“Kong: Skull Island”) and Art Director Luke Freeborn (“Inception”) come in and lend their talents at building a world of tech, weapons, and futuristic sets around the actors who unfortunately are not given the kind of script to match the superior creativity.  In essence, “Pacific Rim: Uprising” echoes the best accomplishments of del Toro’s original, but struggles to bring the overall story to the kind of heights where we should expect a third entry, even though the final scene hints at that very possibility.  GRADE: C