Pacific Rim returns with a new director in tow to continue the epic story of giant robots fighting against horrific monsters. However, this extermination of the human race is not as “epic,” as the first encounter, even though the sequel ultimately has the same world-ending stakes. The new lead John Boyega is surprisingly good, although some of his cavalier, nonchalant attitude is awkward and takes audiences out of potentially impactful scenes. Scott Eastwood provides his normal by-the-books soldier with a rigid exterior that is slowly chipped away throughout the movie. The rest of the supporting cast is dull and not impressive.
John Boyega stars as the rebellious Jake Pentecost, a once-promising Jaeger pilot whose legendary father gave his life to secure humanity’s victory against the monstrous “Kaiju.” Jake has since abandoned his training only to become caught up in a criminal underworld. But when an even more unstoppable threat is unleashed to tear through our cities and bring the world to its knees, he is given one last chance to live up to his father’s legacy by his estranged sister, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), who is leading a brave new generation of pilots that have grown up in the shadow of war. As they seek justice for the fallen, their only hope is to unite together in a global uprising against the forces of extinction. Jake is joined by gifted rival pilot Lambert (Scott Eastwood) and 15-year-old Jaeger hacker Amara (Cailee Spaeny), as the heroes of the PPDC become the only family he has left. Rising up to become the most powerful defense force to ever walk the earth, they will set course for a spectacular all-new adventure on a towering scale. Pacific Rim Uprising is directed by Steven S. DeKnight and also stars Jing Tian, Burn Gorman, Adria Arjona and Charlie Day.
The real allure of this franchise is the giant action set pieces, which demolish cities in the wake of machine, monster mayhem. Fan-favorite mech Gipsy Danger returns as Gipsy Avenger. While the other robots barely have any characterization, the finale spectacle does live up to the hype. The Tokyo showdown is creative and does have the proper danger, but becomes a casualty of too little, too late.
An interesting premise utilized this time around is the notion of robot v robot warfare. One scene in particular is grippingly chilling and firmly establishes the darker mechs as dangerous forces. I won’t reveal the big twist, even if it’s clearly obvious during the first act. I wish they would’ve tried a little bit harder to conceal this mystery, but it does work well enough and has the potential to be useful in the future for the franchise.
The final action sequence is creative and has the proper tension; however the horrendous pacing prevalent throughout the film had already zoned me out by the time the climax hit. Even the color palette and lighting underscores the trivialness of the stakes this time around. Whereas the original took place in a dark and dirty war torn world, highlighted by torrential downpours and neon lights in a darkened city, this spectacle is adorned by bright lights on clear days in bustling cities. While some encounters break this mold, they are few and far between and have drastically drifted from the water engulfed scenes featured in the first.
Ultimately, this action sequel is serviceable, but the franchise needs to change things up in order to stay relevant and thrive. While the pre-credits tease does set-up an intriguing shift in the dynamics of the plot, I am still skeptical of proper execution after this flashy, popcorn flick.