Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim was a love letter to kaiju monster films, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Sure, it wasn’t the most story-driven of films but its focus on the the Jaegers and their pilots made it compelling enough in between the giant mech on monster battles. Pacific Rim Uprising on the other hand lacks any of the spirit of its predecessor, delivering lifeless action sequences that have no urgency to them whatsoever. Rather than build upon the universe del Toro created, Uprising simply lets its crumble under its own weight.
10 years have passed since the events of the first film, and the world has been relatively calm with no new kaiju appearances. Still, the Pan-Pacific Defence Corps is keeping busy training new Jaeger pilots in case of any new attacks. Former Jaeger pilot Jake Pentecost (John Boyega) and son of hero Stacker Pentecost has been living a life of crime, stealing decommissioned Jaeger parts and selling them on the black market. After being arrested alongside rebellious teen mechanic Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny), the two are forced to enlist with the PPDC, but before they can get settled into their positions a new Kaiju threat arises that threatens the fate of humanity once again.
Almost immediately you can tell that Uprising is a different beast from Pacific Rim as it flashes back to a scene from the first film but with a slightly different cut and music, making it more action oriented as opposed to the dread I felt watching it originally. That’s the main difference of Uprising; you never get the feeling that humanity is ever in any danger. The film follows the tired trope that the older generation is outdated and must pass along their knowledge to the younger generation in order for them to save the world, but with the exception of Amara, you don’t actually get to know them at all and therefore don’t care when they get to jump into a Jaeger.
The Jaegers themselves are nothing to write home about either. There’s no weight to them as that battle kaiju and even other hacked Jaegers. What should be cool action set pieces instead look like something out of Transformers or Power Rangers, not Godzilla. Just before the big final showdown, we see a bunch of people run into these giant elevators that go to underground bunkers and are hilariously informed that the entire city has been successfully evacuated, essentially giving permission for the Jaegers to completely disregard the city’s infrastructure because hey, there are no people around so who cares about any collateral damage. The stakes couldn’t feel any lower.
Frankly the only character the film actually does a good job at making you care about is Jake Pentecost, and that’s because John Boyega has an amazing amount of charisma that makes him likeable in nearly every situation, even if he can be a little dickish at times. Ever since his debut in Attack the Block, Boyega has proved time and time again that he has the it-factor to lead a film, and it’s most apparent in Pacific Rim Uprising. As generic as most of the film is, Boyega still excels.
Pacific Rim Uprising struggles to deliver the same action-packed mayhem of the first film. It’s a lackluster sequel that can’t be saved by its charismatic lead, despite John Boyega’s best efforts. I was excited for a sequel after watching the original Pacific Rim, but unless Guillermo del Toro is driving the film I have no interest in a third. This is one apocalypse I welcome with open arms.