Pacific Rim: Uprising — A Sequel overshadowed by its Predecessor

(Originally written on March 27, 2018)

Back in 2013, director Guillermo del Toro surprised audiences with his latest creation at the time, “Pacific Rim”. It was a film focusing heavily on the conflict between enormous creatures called kaiju (which translates to ‘monster’ or ‘strange beast’) and the human race working together to stop them in larger-than-life robot suits called jaegers (pronounced “yay-gers” and when translated means ‘hunter’). Honestly speaking, it was a nice treat for a genre that usually fell into categories like ‘mindless action’. While at its core the movie is still about gigantic robots fighting against gigantic monsters, there was a great amount of detail put into the creative world building and character interactions/development to make you care about everything that was happening, incorporating that unique Guillermo del Toro charm found in all his films.

Fast forward a few years when rumblings of there being a potential sequel were heard, causing many to question whether this was a good idea. I was personally intrigued by this, and by the fact that del Toro himself had already developed some ideas for a potential sequel. Unfortunately, Guillermo ultimately passed directing duties to Steven DeKnight. The sequel not only saw a new director but also a new script. With all these changes, is Pacific Rim: Uprising worth watching?

Taking place ten years after the first film, we are introduced to a post-war society through the eyes of Jake Pentecost (played by John Boyega), son of the war hero Stacker Pentecost (played by Idris Elba in the first film). We are clearly told how he and his father are nothing alike as we see Jake stealing, selling and bartering his way through life. It’s not until his encounter with a young girl named Amara (played by Cailee Spaeny) and a run-in with the authorities that we see the plot begin to move forward at a rapid pace. A new threat emerges that forces Jake to choose whether to let others handle it or to fully commit to helping in this endeavor to prevent another catastrophe.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the first movie for its deliberate pacing, world building and over the top simplicity in regards to seeing a jaeger fighting a kaiju, the sequel seems to hit similar notes but to a lesser degree. To me it felt as if Uprising was placing its focus more on delivering dynamic action scenes while slightly disregarding everything that surrounded them. I understand how a movie like this does need to place much emphasis on action (and it delivers), but it does so at the cost of becoming rather monotonous and not having enough time for character development and story. Those elements are present but very brief, as if they are only there to make way for what the film deems to be the main priority (which is action).

There are also some moments that felt, for lack of a better term, very childish. Though to be fair, I actually thought all the action was quite entertaining, and to the film’s credit I genuinely didn’t think the plot would move in the direction it did as I saw it happening.

As for the cast, I thought majority of them gave great performances. It was nice seeing some returning cast members from the first film interacting with the new crew (no Charlie Hunnam unfortunately). We are also given some good character moments that evoke tension, sympathy, anger and humour. I was also surprised to see such a diverse cast representing different nationalities (though I shouldn’t be that surprised since the first movie did the same thing).

All in all, Pacific Rim: Uprising is entertaining if you’re looking for something action-y to watch at the movie theater. Does it live up to continuing the story after the first film? Well, yes and no, but that’s to be expected when ideas are changed and rewritten. At least it’s fun.

- A. Shin

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