Pacific Rim Uprising

Review by Hannah Woodhead @goodjobliz

Directed by

Steven S DeKnight

Starring

John Boyega Scott Eastwood Tian Jing

Anticipation.

The lack of del Toro is a big red flag…

Enjoyment.

Boyega just about keeps this rickety ship afloat.

In Retrospect.

Lacks the poetry of its predecessor, but a solid 111 minutes of giant robots punching each other.

John Boyega gamely fills Idris Elba’s shoes in this madcap sequel to Guillermo del Toro’s shiny robot romp.

When Guillermo del Toro announced via Twitter in early 2016 that he wouldn’t be hopping back into the pilot seat for the sequel to his 2013 big ol’ robot hit Pacific Rim, fans were understandably disappointed. He decided instead to focus on another monster movie of sorts, placing the future of the franchise in the hands of debut director Steven S DeKnight. The shiny statuettes now lining del Toro’s mantelpiece suggest that he made the right call, but watching Pacific Rim Uprising, there’s an underlying melancholy as you ponder what might have been.

Other casualties include Charlie Hunnam’s charming puppy dog pilot Raleigh Beckett and Ron Perlman’s gold-plated wheeler-dealer Hannibal Chau. It’s never really explained what happened to any of the characters from the first film, with the notable exception of Rinko Kikuchi’s Mako Mori who appears in a supporting role, and fan-favourite kaiju scientists Hermann Gottlieb and Newt Geiszler (Burn Gorman and Charlie Day) who are back for round two.

Prominence is given to the ghost of Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentecost, as newcomer John Boyega (making his debut as a film producer) plays his estranged son Jake, who ends up piloting a Jaeger as penance for his playboy antics. He’s joined by scrappy young junker Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny) and grimacing career soldier Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood), but it’s Boyega who does the heavy lifting, his natural charisma elevating a fairly unremarkable role into something decidedly more watchable.

And it’s good fun, especially if you like watching giant robots knocking seven bells out of each other. The film’s first Jaeger face-off sees DeKnight set out his stall, fully committing to the whacky concept which del Toro’s series opener laid out. But if big scary monsters were the villains in Pacific Rim, Uprising is more about big scary humans. Ten years after Elba cancelled the apocalypse, the concern of a potential beast from the deep reprise warrants the deployment of drone jaegers to stand as the world’s line of defence against any potential threat.

This turns out to be a Very Bad Idea, but don’t expect to find any of the world-building and attention to detail from its predecessor in DeKnight’s follow-up. This is a straight-up rock ’em sock ’em romp in which logic takes a backseat and big dumb action becomes the film’s beating heart.

Uprising never tries to be anything more than this, which feels strangely refreshing in a world of gritty reboots and super serious sequels. Although it lacks the soul of the first film, there’s infinitely more to enjoy here than in The Transformers franchise (from which DeKnight graduated). What could have easily felt like a cynical cash-in manages to retain a scrappy charm, undoubtedly due to the efforts of Boyega and Spaeny. Though if we’re splitting hairs, their characters do feel as though they’ve been lifted from the other epic sci-fi saga Boyega has ties to.

Published 22 Mar 2018

Tags: Guillermo del Toro John Boyega Steven S DeKnight

Anticipation.

The lack of del Toro is a big red flag…

Enjoyment.

Boyega just about keeps this rickety ship afloat.

In Retrospect.

Lacks the poetry of its predecessor, but a solid 111 minutes of giant robots punching each other.

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