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4/3/18

PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING - REVIEW


Guillermo Del Toro's Pacific Rim was something of a breath of fresh air back in 2013. The increasingly tedious Transformers franchise was still going strong so finally seeing a genuinely fun and well made movie about giant robots fighting was hugely satisfying.

For all its flaws, Pacific Rim was exactly what it sought out to be: a modern yet proudly cheesy version of Robot Jox crossed with a deadpan Japanese Kaiju movie. This was a thoroughly entertaining visual treat with some memorable city-set fight scenes and one delightfully over-the-top Idris Elba speech. Pacific Rim: Uprising takes place some years later as we meet Elba's character's son Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), a former Jaeger pilot turned thief who sells Jaeger parts on the black market. When he encounters Amara (Cailee Spaeny), a street-smart young orphan who has managed to make her own Jaeger, they are both caught by the Defense Corps and put to work as new recruits. As China's Shao Corporation gets ready to release a drone program allowing the mass production of remotely operated Jaegers which would render the original program obsolete, the city is attacked by a rogue Jaeger. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman reprise their comic relief nerd roles, while Rinko Kikuchi returns as Mako Mori in a glorified cameo.

This continuation offers a lot of potentially interesting ideas: monster Jaegers, humans brainwashed by Kaijus, makeshift Jaegers, a better peek into the Kaiju dimension. Unfortunately, the new Defense Corps team, which includes characters played by Scott Eastwood, Jules Reyes and Jing Tian, is somehow even more bland than the one we met the first time around and, even though Rinko Kikuchi's performance here is below par, the way that Mako Mori is disposed of in this movie is pretty insulting. Boyega, Day and Gorman are all quite good but even their parts are criminally underwritten. The interesting new story elements should work well but they don't due to a dire script packed with state-the-obvious dialogue, unfunny Michael Bay-level humour and awkwardly resolved character arcs. Luckily, Pacific Rim: Uprising delivers in the visuals department: the CG is impressive and the Jaeger designs are still cool so the film is every bit as much of a spectacle as you'd expect with more Jaegers getting to carelessly destroy more private property in style.

If you thought the first Pacific Rim was mindless, then you'll find Uprising to be a black hole of thought (think Transformers: The Last Knight meets Independence Day: Resurgence). And yet, a charismatic lead and some fun action scenes save the film from being a complete waste of time.

Underwhelming sequel.

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