There sure is a lot of Jaeger on Jaeger violence in Pacific Rim: Uprising, the sequel to a movie about giant robots (“Jaegers”) punching giant monsters (“Kaiju”). All of the advertising that promises more of that in this one shows shots from (1) simulations and (2) the finale, which are the only points at which the giant monsters show up. I’m not sure if I appreciate that direction. It takes the fun part of the original and makes it feel more like a Transformers movie.
It takes place 10 years after the original and follows Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), the previously unmentioned son of Idris Elba‘s General, who makes a living selling Jaeger parts on the black market. He gets caught and is given a choice: prison or Jaeger instructor. He chooses the latter, gets caught up in a plot you won’t care about, and eventually becomes the reluctant hero we all want him to be, piloting that one Jaeger from the first movie you remember in order to defeat other Jaegers and eventually, maybe, possibly, some of those cool giant monsters.
There is something of a story—there’s even a pretty sizeable twist in there, although it unfortunately doesn’t amount to a ton—and a greater attempt at developing its supporting cast, but it’s unlikely you’ll care about either. The characters have back stories and depth, but they’re not original or interesting; you’ve seen these before—some of them go through parallel arcs to those from the first film—and Pacific Rim: Uprising doesn’t do anything to make them stand out. I’m guessing that’s largely because the dialogue is so flat and basic in order to make it easy to translate for foreign (read: Chinese) markets, to whom the film is desperate to appeal.
The action also doesn’t stand out. While it’s a welcome surprise to see much of it take place in the daytime, as opposed to the drenched-in-darkness aesthetic of the first, it’s just a mash of uninteresting special effects hitting each other. I know the world is in danger and the film goes to great lengths to make us care about its boring cast of people, but it’s mostly just boring. It looks like a Transformers movie, there isn’t any originality, and it’s missing any semblance of fun. It’s a slog. How do you mess up “giant robots and giant monsters fight for the fate of the planet”?
That’s just about the kiss of death for any action movie, isn’t it? You can be a lot of things, but you can’t be dull. If Pacific Rim: Uprising had better action, it’d be easy to forgive a lot of its faults. That’s how the first one got by, after all. It’s just a giant version of a kid playing with robot toys and monster toys, but it works because it’s fun and the action is solid. Without any good action, its sequel becomes tedious. It’s also hard to shake how much it feels like the Independence Day sequel—both in its actual plot and the way that it sets up a more interesting movie that we may never get to see.
Pacific Rim: Uprising has very little going for it. Its plot tries but we don’t care because its characters are so bland, its action isn’t very good, there’s almost no humor, and the production ends with a tease of a potentially more interesting movie than we’ve been given. It doesn’t have much robot vs. monster violence, and looks and feels like a mediocre Transformers movie—one that’s been cross-bred with Independence Day: Resurgence. What a disappointment.
Conclusion: Pacific Rim: Uprising is a weak imitation of its predecessor.
Recommendation: You like Pacific Rim? It’s probably better for you to just rewatch it than see its sequel.