“Pacific Rim: Uprising” falls flat

Released on March 23, “Pacific Rim Uprising” is the sequel to Guillermo del Toro’s “Pacific Rim.” With a completely different cast and a new director in Steven S. DeKnight, the new film may disappoint a few fans who have been avidly waiting for it for five years.

The film takes place a decade after the first film’s Battle of the Breach, with the kaiju—giant monsters—set on making a return to Earth. Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), son of the late Colonel Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), must join his estranged sister, Mako Mori (Rinko Kukichi), a veteran Jaeger pilot, as she leads a new generation in the fight against the kaiju.

“Uprising” has a very different aesthetic from the first installment. “Pacific Rim” was gritty, and had a steampunk feel to it. The new film is much more clean, and the jaegers just look like Transformers. Without the character and effort implied by the first film’s grease, dust and guts, the new film becomes a boring action movie which lacks the guidance of a director’s personal aesthetics.

The plot also has many pitfalls. “Uprising” may have tried to learn from the success of several dystopian teen franchises, but sadly adding a few teenagers who have no relevance to the plot does not work. Also, since Charlie Hunnam exited the sequel, the movie does not feature Raleigh, the original film’s male protagonist, which may also disappoint some of the audience. Mori is also is grievously underutilized in a movie where she should be at the forefront.

The original film has a very obvious appeal. Del Toro is a great fan of science fiction, Japanese film and machines. Because he stayed loyal to these influences, del Toro was much more proficient in making a good kaiju (the Japanese term for what Hollywood refers to as “giant monster”) film. People do things well when they love them, and only someone who is a fan of kaiju culture can create a good kaiju story.

Despite its unsatisfying plot, “Uprising” actually demonstrates more diversity through characters and the bilingual plot. Notably, in the film, the Shao industry is an homage to the famous Shaw Brothers, who created a great number of excellent Hong Kong action movies, such as “New Leaf” and “Heroine Li Feifei.” Additionally, like the first film, the cast has many actors of color in order to represent the truly international effort dedicated to saving the world.

Overall, “Uprising” is a popcorn film with interesting actions and special effects: new Jaegers and kaiju, fierce battles and massive destructions, but lacks good storytelling. If you are someone that has an obsession with old, rusted, heavy robots, go watch “Pacific Rim” instead.

Film: “Pacific Rim Uprising”
Director: Steven S. DeKnight
Release: March 23
Rating: 2.5/5 stars