** out of ****
(for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language)
Released: March 23, 2018
Runtime: 111 minutes
Director: Steven S. DeKnight
Starring: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Tian Jing, Jin Zhang, Adria Arjona, Rinko Kikuchi
An absolutely mind-numbing action movie, Pacific Rim: Uprising is, at least, not so bad that it makes you dumber as you watch it. Thankfully, if unintentionally, it shifts your brain into auto-pilot before it can affect any true long-term damage.
The original Pacific Rim, by recent Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro, may not have fully lived up to its ambitions but it at least had them. This sequel, which del Toro tangentially produces as TV showrunner and first-time film director Steven S. DeKnight takes over, does little more than re-assemble the “Transformers Meets Top Gun” monster movie mash-up and then set it a decade later.
If you missed the first movie then this is even more pointless, but at least you won’t be lost. Opening with what is, in effect, a “Previously on Pacific Rim…” recap, the intro establishes John Boyega’s Jake Pentecost as the rebel offspring of Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentecost, the hero Jaeger pilot who died saving the world from the apocalypse.
A Jaeger is a giant military robot that requires two “pilot’ fighters to operate it. An army of these were used to fight and defeat the Kaiju, monstrous creatures that rose from the depths of the sea to threaten mankind.
Ten years have passed and now the Kaiju are back, but evolved, and Jake Pentecost is recruited to join the revitalized Jaeger corps he abandoned. A scrappy scavenger of the criminal underworld, Jake’s run-ins with the law were a result of scrounging Jaeger parts for the black market. Now it’s either jail or Jaeger. He Jaegers, natch.
The plot of this sequel is pretty simple, yet DeKnight’s slick telling can be convoluted. Poorly paced, zipping through information with little a sense for narrative emphasis or nurturing relationships, Pacific Rim: Uprising isn’t so much confusing as it is monotonous.
Honestly, the trailer does a much better job of telling the story than the actual movie does.
It throws a lot at you while never actually drawing you in, despite some charismatic turns from Boyega, feisty newcomer tween Cailee Spaeny, returning cast Charlie Day and Burn Gorman, and even a game Scott Eastwood that comes off more like a Kurt Russell wannabe than his dad Clint.
Everything here is just a cog in a constantly spinning wheel. The plot has potential for exploring relevant issues, namely drone warfare and its impersonal / inhumane implications, but DeKnight and the script have no interest in even acknowledging them, let alone wrestling with them.
The movie need not get bogged down in pretense or try to be anything more than it is, but the avoidance of anything other than visual bells and whistles makes for a rather hollow, tedious experience. Pacific Rim: Uprising virtually defies you to not zone out. (It won, I lost.)
The mech-battle action is even shortchanged, intermittent here and there, holding back from a full-on blitz of what you paid for until the finale. It’s quite a spectacle, and it’s more coherent than Michael Bay‘s Bayhem, but sitting through the bloated, generic dirge of this Jaeger bomb to get there just isn’t worth it.