*Minor spoilers below*
Pacific Rim Uprising is a fun film with a good mix of new characters and old favorites. This second round of monsters and robots battling it out for the fate of Earth delivers more than you expect, with even more giant entities across the scene than the original.
It’s a good movie, but the writers of this film didn’t do everything they could to achieve its untapped potential.
The Good News
John Boyega (Jake Pentecost), Caliee Spaeny (Amara Namani) and Scott Eastwood (Nate Lambert) are all well-developed characters. In particular, both Boyega and Spaeny’s characters are both fighting the shadows of their fathers in very different ways.
As far as the plot is concerned there are some risks taken, with two in particular really paying off. First, the plot twist of a character from the original film switching sides in this fight between robots and monsters is not something you see coming. It’s definitely an unexpected but worthwhile risk.
Second, the unexpected story arc of a new character is a nice red herring. The way the character behaves leads you to believe the worst of them, only to find out just how you wrong you were.
It might seem odd to say, but each individual performance from this cast adds to the overall plot nicely. That will be something to remember when we get to the next section.
The cunningness of the Precursors (the alien bad guys) in how they utilize the Kaiju is also something to appreciate, mainly because it shows the monsters set upon the Earth are more than mere monsters. The Precursors are continuing to follow their blueprint from the first film, but in a very sneaky way.
Three more things that fans of the first film can appreciate: homage paid, the soundtrack, and drift compatibility is back!
This film continues to pay homage to Sci-Fi and Anime storytelling with the risks taken, albeit less in this installment than the first film. The music in the movie is definitely one to check out after leaving the theater. And of course, drift compatibility is back and plays a key role in developing relationships between characters.
The Bad News (remember, we mentioned spoilers above)
Killing off one of the best characters from the first film stings. A lot. Not only is this character killed off, but it happens sooner than expected.
However, it makes sense to do so because you can’t really have two identical character arcs and expect to fully develop enough depth and intrigue for both. It’s understandable, but not appreciated.
Focusing on the cadets is a worthy risk to take. BUT… it’s a risk that falls flat due to the underdevelopment of said characters. Introducing new characters requires giving the audience reasons to invest in said characters and that doesn’t happen here. This is the primary reason the film feels a bit juvenile, especially in relation to the first film.
You can feel the absence of Pacific Rim director Guillermo del Toro. Del Toro’s attention to detail and signature weirdness are missing in this script. He did have limited involvement, but it just didn’t translate to the final product onscreen. The plot lacks the depth and development of the first film.
I am ALL for risk-taking, especially in sequels. Challenging the canon with new ideas are how franchises survive in today’s Hollywood. When it comes to Uprising, it’s a bit underdeveloped when it comes to secondary characters and overall plot.
The action is certainly popcorn-worthy and you’re going to enjoy watching the fight scenes. Just don’t expect the direness that Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) established in the first film.
One can only hope del Toro writes and directs the third installment.