Pacific Rim seemed like the type of blockbuster film that was designed not to be successful. It was specifically aimed towards fans of giant monster films and fell nearly $90 million short of breaking even domestically. The film went on to make over $300 million overseas and its success in foreign waters is the main reason why Pacific Rim: Uprising exists today. When Guillermo Del Toro opted to make The Shape of Water (a four time Oscar winner) instead of returning for the sequel (although he is listed as a producer of Uprising), an overwhelming sensation of doubt and immediate regret began to set in. Pacific Rim: Uprising isn’t as entirely disastrous the trailers let on, but it fails to be as entertaining and captivating as the first film.
Steven S. DeKnight makes his directorial debut here. DeKnight also contributes to the screenplay along with Emily Carmichael (the inevitable Jurassic World 3), first time screenwriter Kira Snyder, and T.S. Nowlin (The Maze Runner franchise and the upcoming Godzilla vs. Kong). Travis Beacham handled the majority of the writing duties on the first film, but it’s baffling to think about how Hollywood has to incorporate sequels being bigger than the original films with larger casts, more expensive special effects, and a writing staff that’s four times as large. Four individuals are responsible for the direction Uprising goes in, which lines up with the ideas Del Toro originally had for the sequel. But why is it that four people can make a simple idea so convoluted and hokey when one person executed it more efficiently the first time around?
You likely have a massive Godzilla or Gamera fan raging inside of you if you’re looking forward to this film or maybe you just enjoyed the last film and want to see what direction it goes in. Nevertheless, Pacific Rim: Uprising appeals to you because you want to see Jaegers and Kaiju beat the gargantuan shit out of one another. Those sequences are the highlight of the film with Obsidian Fury being the rogue Jaeger catering directly to the little kid inside of you clutching onto a MechaGodzilla action figure as you sit Indian-style with your face an inch away from the television screen. Your eyes become wide and a big grin spreads across your face looking like Izuku Midoriya from My Hero Academia seeing All Might for the first time. The Siberia battle between Obsidian Fury and Gipsy Avenger culminates with a Mortal Kombat reference while you find yourself rooting for the three Kaiju that merge together like Voltron solely because the idea of seeing an army of kaiju on-screen would be quite the spectacle.
A quick version of the film’s plot summary is that a decade of peace is ruined when a drone program designed to operate the Jaegers ends up re-opening the breach that has kept the Kaiju at bay. The Kaiju are headed to Mt. Fuji because it’s an active volcano full of rare elements that could potentially reinvigorate the entire Kaiju race. There are other factors like Jake Pentacost (John Boyega), the son of Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentacost, stealing Jaeger parts and selling them on the black market while completely despising living in his father’s shadow, Dr. Newt Geiszler (Charlie Day) being the main programmer who developed the drone program for Shao Corporations, and Scott Eastwood being about as memorable as a head of iceberg lettuce. You seriously could have replaced all of Eastwood’s scenes with wet lettuce just lying there on the floor and it probably would have had the same effect.
The absence of Charlie Hunnam and Idris Elba is felt tremendously throughout Uprising and it doesn’t help that the film points out that Elba’s Pentacost died to save the world every five minutes. Boyega does what he can with the material he’s given having a few half-humorous one-liners and an obsession with sprinkles and ice cream toppings that is almost a borderline fetish. Day and Burn Gorman have painful screen time together, which is disappointing since their chemistry is what made the humor work in the previous film. While Day’s eccentricities worked with the direction his character went in with the first film, his skillset doesn’t mesh well with what his character does in Uprising. The rest of the cast is either memorable because they can’t act (Ivanna Sakhno) or is completely forgotten about and is basically just cannon fodder set up to die later on or be a stepping stone for Jake and the stubborn junkyard mechanic Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny).
The first film had obvious homage to anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion and comparisons to the Transformers franchise weren’t unwarranted, but Pacific Rim: Uprising seems to ride the coattails of those references (like the blatant Gundam statue thrown in just because) and not only does them more often but also has less of its own identity because of it. Amara’s Jaeger Scrapper is essentially the Bumblebee of the film and the sound effects sound like they were rejected outtakes from all of the Transformers films combined. The majority of the film is devoted to these teenagers you could give two Kaiju shits about. Versus films like Alien vs Predator choose to focus on human characters when you paid full price to see two monsters tear each other apart. PCU has the same issue; more than half of the film follows a bunch of whiny teens feeling entitled to shit they know nothing about while the Kaiju are only around for maybe the last half hour. By the way, the ending of the film feels totally rushed and unsatisfactory so that certainly doesn’t help matters.
I wanted to be wrong about Pacific Rim: Uprising. The trailers made the film look like a sequel that completely overlooked the aspects of the first film that made it worthwhile and that is exactly what it ended up being. The battle sequences are fun, but aren’t worth sitting through an hour and a half of teen propelled donkey shit. Those highlights will likely be found on Youtube in a couple months so save your hard earned money for Avengers: Infinity War or seeing Black Panther for the seventh time. The humor in the film feels forced and thrives on the overwhelming amount of lameness found crammed into a bunch of dad jokes strung together as the film practically jabs you with its metaphorical elbow as it waggles its eyebrows and asks if you get it or not. The film leaves off on the potential of making Pacific Rim into a franchise and even possibly colliding with the Monsterverse (the new Godzilla/Kong film universe) since T.S. Nowlin is part of both writing teams. If Charlie Day fucking a piece of Kaiju brain is all we have to look forward to (he totally molested that thing with his groin area, right guys?), then why should we want to cancel such a limp-dick excuse of the apocalypse? 2/5 Handfuls of Boyega Sprinkles
Universal/Legendary Pictures’ Pacific Rim Uprising is in theaters now.