“Pacific Rim: Uprising” is as good as you can expect from a conventional but serviceable blockbuster product. While it is not as ambitious or spirited as its predecessor, the movie provides enough amount of action to entertain you, and I must admit that I was not that bored during my viewing although it does not have enough energy and personality to engage me.
The prologue part of the movie explains to us what happened after the big climactic ending of “Pacific Rim” (2013). During the next 10 years, the humanity has gradually recovered from the damages resulted from its long war with huge alien monsters called ‘Kaiju’. and the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps (PPDC) and its big robots called ‘Jaeger’, which were crucial in the victory of the war, have become far less necessary than before. While the PPDC is still maintained, some of Jaegers became retired and abandoned, and the following scene shows an attempt to steal some important component from one of those abandoned Jaegers.
To Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), the son of legendary war hero Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), Jaegers once meant a lot to him when he was a PPDC trainee during the war, but he has been a small-time scrapper stealing and selling components from Jaegers since he was kicked out of the PPDC for some disagreeable incident. When he tries to steal that important component from the abandoned Jaeger, it is just another opportunity to earn money, but then he finds himself getting involved with a teenager girl named Amara Namani (Caliee Spaeny), who needs that component for building her own Jaeger. In the end, they are arrested together, and Jake’s adopted sister Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), who is currently the leader of the PPDC, gives him an offer he cannot refuse; instead of going to prison, he will go back to the PPDC as a training instructor, and Amara will accompany him as a new trainee.
Right from their first day at the PPDC headquarters near Hong Kong, the situation does not look that good for both Jake and Amara. While she cannot help but enthusiastic as looking around a number of Jaegers in the PPDC headquarters, Amara soon faces a serious difficulty as going through the training along with other trainees, and she also has to cope with an aggressive trainee who is rather harsh and hostile to her. In case of Jake, he has to work with his old friend and colleague Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood), and it is pretty clear that there are some bad feelings remained between them.
Meanwhile, the PPDC comes to face a possible change which is not welcomed much by Mako and some others in the PPDC. Liwen Shao (Jing Tian), an ambitious entrepreneur who is the CEO of a big global technology company, proposes the replacement of Jaegers with her drone robots developed by her technicians including Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day), and Mako may not be able to stop this change no matter how much she tries.
And then, of course, there comes a sudden unexpected threat, and, yes, Jake and other characters around him surely come to see that they must band together for stopping another big crisis of the humanity. After a major action sequence unfolded in Sydney, the movie keeps trying one thing after another for entertaining us, and everything eventually culminates to a long action sequence featuring no less than three Kaijus and four Jaegers.
While being as big and loud as required, the action sequences in the movie are skillfully handled on the whole, but I was somehow not very impressed by that. Sure, “Pacific Rim” also has many similarly bombastic action sequences, but these sequences are presented with not only skills but also personality and style under Guillermo del Toro’s spirited direction, and I also admired his considerable attention to mood and details. In contrast, “Pacific Rim: Uprising” looks less distinctive and passionate as mechanically moving from one narrative point to another, and the result is less memorable in comparison despite its well-made aspects.
In addition, the screenplay by director Steven S. DeKnight and his co-writers Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, and T.S. Nowlin often stumbles in its clumsy attempt to provide engaging story and characters. Besides Amara and Jake, the other characters around them are mostly flat and underdeveloped, and the dramas generated among them are not engaging enough to hold our attention. While “Pacific Rim” is also rather weak in terms of storytelling and characterization, many of its characters are presented with distinctive personality at least, and that was the main reason I could care about what is being at stake for them.
The main performers in the movie fill their respective roles as much as they can. While John Boyega, who has been more notable thanks to recent Star Wars film, is reliable as before, Caliee Spaeny is as plucky as demanded, and Scott Eastwood and Jing Tian acquit themselves well in spite of being stuck with their thankless roles. In case of Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, and Burn Gorman, they merely function as plot elements, and that reminds me of how much they were better in the previous film.
Overall, “Pacific Rim: Uprising” is one or two steps below “Pacific Rim”, so I give it 2.5 stars, but I must tell you that it is a better alternative to those dreadful Transformer movies. Although I still think it could be better with more style and substance, I am actually relieved to see that it is not as bad as I feared, and I sincerely hope that the possible next sequel will fix that problem.