Written by: Mathew ‘JJ’ Simoes
In Pacific Rim Uprising, Jake Pentecost (John Boyega) returns to the Pan-Pacific Defense Force after a long absence under uncomfortable circumstances. He returns as a simple instructor but gets drawn into the secret plot to disrupt the peace experienced in the ten years since the franchise’s previous installment. Along for the ride is new cadet Amara Namani (Callie Spaeny) and Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood), Jake’s old friend. Together they work together to save the world from those who seek its destruction. Alone they are just soldiers, but together they become more. Together they are Team Jaeger (they are never actually called this but it felt like the natural conclusion to this summary)!
Pacific Rim Uprising is best described as a popcorn flick as it provides all kinds of action and large-scale destruction. The film’s plot is, well it’s straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon. It’s unremarkable, with a ridiculously over the top villain plan. Even part of the heroes’ plan in the third act seems so ridiculous that it takes you out of the viewing experience and makes you question every fiber of it. This makes for a fairly mundane story, but there’s something about it that makes for two hours well spent. When I called it a cartoon, that wasn’t a point against the film, in fact that gives Uprising most of it’s charm. That being said, charm can only go so far. Uprising tries to build convincing character drama through Jake’s relationships to the other characters, but in the end the story simply serves the purpose of justifying the action sequences it prioritizes so much. In fact, the film’s thin plot is very noticeable, as the story drags itself from fight sequence to fight sequence with almost nothing interesting happening whatsoever.
The action sequences in the film are the truly standout moments, and each one is increasingly more entertaining than the last. If there’s any reason to watch the film, it’s to see robots beat the crap out of monsters and other robots. The CGI and effects are all done quite well, making for a very tactile and lived in world. Actually, if I’m going to praise any aspect of this film it’s the visual appearance of the world the story inhabits. As mentioned earlier the lived-in feel of the world and the rougher appearance of some of the Jaegers makes for great set pieces. The action scenes are what make film an entertaining watch and largely work to make up for the cliché aspects of the film’s plot and a dull supporting cast.
Pacific Rim Uprising’s antagonists are faceless, which in some movies is fine, but they don’t seem to represent any larger concept here. Even Godzilla always had meaning behind him when he showed up to destroy a city, be it as a warning of nuclear fission or acting as a force of nature. This film’s villains are just a generic evil invading force that never had the pleasure of being led by Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. It seems as if the film’s antagonistic forces are merely there to move the story forward and direct the heroes on how to get to the climax. In fact, the film relies so little on it’s characters, as the plot seems to move around them and position them in such a way that the actions can take place. They’re purely incidental, and if you removed them, the film events of the film would still occur.
The principle characters in the film each have an arc, and for the, most part each is given some resolution in the movie’s climax. Boyega and Spaeny each give a good performance in their respective roles. Boyega’s performance is easily the best in the film, as he manages to make his character engaging, despite the fact that Jake’s character arc is an overused trope. That being said, the film handles said trope a lot better than Independence Day: Resurgence did. His relationship with his sister is almost laughable, as the film doesn’t even try to show a bond between the two, which severely impacts one of it’s more eventful story beats. Eastwood always played gruff well, and he continues this with his role as Nate Lambert. The character isn’t anything special or interesting, but Eastwood plays well off of Boyega. Charlie Day provides some humour to the film, but sadly much of it falls flat. It’s a shame, considering how talented Day has proven himself to be in other projects.
The film lacks the personal touch of Del Toro that made a very plain concept into the intriguing world we experienced in Uprising’s predecessor. It’s because of this that film is only mildly entertaining, with engaging spurts of action set in between dull character interactions that is some instances verge on self parody. It’s good for at least one watch, and it’s a great way to distract yourself for close to two hours.
Mathew’s Rating – 5.5/10
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