To be honest, I don’t really think that much needs to be said about Pacific Rim Uprising. It’s a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters. It’s not Annie Hall or Citizen Kane, it’s stupid and it’s fun and that’s as far as it needs to go really. But let’s talk about it anyway.
In the first film, there was a serious desperation. We were flailing against an unstoppable force, doing our best to survive for as long as we could. It wasn’t a matter of ‘will we survive?’, rather a matter of ‘how long can we hold off our defeat?’.
Now in Uprising, it’s ten years since Idris Elba cancelled the apocalypse (one of the best motivational speeches since Independence Day) and we closed the Breach (the portal through which the Kaiju were coming) and humanity has rebuilt. Now we’re not a tiny unprepared species on the defensive, we’re a military might with humongous technological capabilities and we have advanced a long way since defeating the Precursors (the aliens who were creating and sending the Kaiju). Uprising has a bit of a Neon Genesis Evangelion feel at times with the new generation of Jaeger pilots being teenagers. Fortunately, they have a bit more personality than Rei Ayaname and are a bit less whiney than Shinji Ikari.
Cailee Spaeny, plays Amara Namani, a teenaged girl living on the streets after being orphaned during a Kaiju attack when she was still a child. Personally I think we can expect pretty cool things from her in the future. She pulled her weight in a film housing some pretty big names. Starring next to her is John Boyega and he is great as usual. It was odd hearing his English accent after being so used to his American accent in Star Wars.
The world feels different to the one of the first film. For one thing the first film was primarily shot at night and there was a lot of rain. Now they’re fighting in the daylight (subtle). The feel is a lot less desperate and a lot less bleak. Now the fight against the Kaiju is a problem, but one we can handle a lot better. And speaking of Kaiju…
They have evolved. The Precursors were defeated and they’ve had ten years to ponder how to get back at us. Needless to say they’ve come up with something a lot more insidious than their previous plan. I won’t say what it is but I will say I didn’t see it coming, though in hindsight I probably should have suspected it. At first I didn’t like what the new plot against humanity was but given its links to events in the previous film, it made complete sense.
I do have a few complaints.
First of all, there was no explanation given for why Charlie Hunnam wasn’t in the film. In reality he was too busy filming King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (which completely flopped and lost a lot of money). Maybe I missed the reason he wasn’t there but if I did, it was because they probably explained it in a single sentence and never spoke about it again. And so they replaced him with another generically attractive white dude (Scott Eastwood) and gave him a tense history with John Boyega.
Boyegas character in the movie makes more sense (even if he was retconned into the universe). He’s the estranged son of Idris Elba and is staying away from his father’s legacy because he is acutely aware of the fact the he is not his father. His tension with Eastwood is resolved relatively quickly without much incident and the love-triangle between them and Adria Arjona was vague and weirdly ambiguous. It just didn’t go anywhere, had no weight in the film and, if I’m honest, I’m not even sure what Arjonas purpose in the film was. Mechanic or something?
It’s been a while since the first film came out. The delay being due to Legendary pictures teaming up with Universal, followed by conflicts between the two studios and the subsequent purchase of Legendary by Wanda group, a multinational conglomerate based in Beijing. This purchase of Legendary was fortunate given that Pacific Rim was very successful in China. That coupled with Guillermo del Toro revealing that he had been secretly been working hard with Zak Penn on a script and a budget seems to be the reason we finally have Pacific Rim Uprising. There was a time when it was uncertain if there was even going to be another film. del Toro’s Mountains of Madness project had been cancelled at that time and it seemed that all his good ideas were being thrown out and/or ignored. Since then he has released The Shape of Water which pretty much won everything at the Oscars and though del Toro didn’t direct Uprising (he was a producer, Steven DeKnight was the director for this one in his feature-film debut), I’m hoping that having his name attached to successful films will inspire faith in his Mountains of Madness project (I’m very keen to see this one come to fruition).
The future of Pacific Rim is headed towards a Star Wars-style universe where they can do movies set in the main story line or standalone side films (like Rogue One and Solo). There is even talk about there being a cross-over with Legendary’s Monster-verse (Godzilla and Kong and their future films).
This isn’t a cerebral film, it’s a physical one. You don’t watch Dragon Ball Z for the dialogue, you watch it for the fighting. So watch Uprising for what it is: A badass film about people in giant robots fighting giant monsters. I think Steven DeKnight has a film he can be proud of and you can watch it without minimal brain-activity. Your inner ten-year-old will be very excited.