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Movie Review: Pacific Rim: Uprising

Jake Pentecost, son of Stacker Pentecost, reunites with Mako Mori to lead a new generation of Jaeger pilots, including rival Lambert and 15-year-old hacker Amara, against a new Kaiju threat.

It’s been almost five years since the original Pacific Rim and over those years my love for the original has grown. The giant robot vs. monsters movie is exactly what it said it’d be with crazy fights, lots of actions, and bringing the cult genres to the big screen in a live action film that only Guillermo del Toro can deliver. It was, and is, a fun brainless film.

Enter Pacific Rim: Uprising which attempts to create a franchise out of the cult classic (and it’s obvious this is the goal) but without the creative team of del Toro and fellow screenwriter Travis Beacham. Directed by Steven S. DeKnight with a script by DeKnight, Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, and T.S. Nowlin, Pacific Rim: Uprising is the same brainless giant robot fun but somehow made shallower. It’s Pacific Rim via Michael Bay (and that’s not a compliment).

Taking place ten years after the original film, the world hasn’t completely recovered from the destruction of the original and is on edge over the threat of further Kaiju attack. The movie is Pacific Rim: The Next Generation as we’re introduced to new cadets and characters with only a few standing out and showing any personality.

Returning are Burn Gorman as Dr. Hermann Gottlieb, Charlie Day as Dr. Newton Geiszler, and Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori. With much of the original cast dead, we’re presented new cadets and new “heroes” to cheer for but none show aspects that make us want to.

Let me get to the good.

There’s some solid use of the drift to teach us about these new characters.

There’s some cool fights and we get to see all sorts of new aspects when it comes to robot battles.

It pays homage to the past while attempting to forge it’s own future, a path similar to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It also does that with the genre as a whole with nods to Godzilla and Gundam alike.

The bad.

The sound quality is all over the place and I had issues understanding dialogue.

They fridge a character.

None of the characters stand out at all. It feels like the majority are background characters devoid of personality and anything that makes them special.

And the last part is what bothers me the most. The new film is another franchise for the entertaining and likeable John Boyega who plays Jake Pentecost, the son of Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentecost from the original. We’re also supposed to get another set of eyes we can relate to in Cailee Spaeny‘s Amara Namani, a teenage genius who built her own Jaeger. That character though isn’t given enough to do, or enough growth, and falls short of Mako Mori’s story arc from the original. In fact Namani feels like a cross between Mori and the teenage female tech genius from Transformers: Last Knight.

The new bunch of recruits aren’t interesting or feel like derivatives of the original including two Russians who somehow have less personality than the pair from the first movie. Like teenagers lined up to die in a horror film, we’re given shallow stereotypes/archetypes instead of characters. I don’t care what happens to them at all. Beyond two characters, everyone feels like fodder and background and at points I cheered and hoped for a giant monster to eat them.

And that’s the biggest failure of the film.

There’s an excellent theme here of the next generation saving the world. Set against the real world where kids are speaking up for DACA or against gun violence such as those from Parkland, there’s an interesting theme and concept of Generation X and Millenials handing over the world to Gen Z for them to save it. Act as a guiding hand and a reminder to not make the same mistakes. That’s touched upon but never explored and if it was given just a little attention, the film would be an amazing allegory and perfectly timed for the state of the real world.

Pacific Rim: Uprising feels like half-baked ideas that are never fully realized. Still, if you’re going for giant robots battling monsters, you should be more than happy.

Overall Rating: 6.5