Pacific Rim: Uprising follows the son of Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), Jake (John Boyega), as he attempts to lead a rag-tag team of recruits against the kaiju. Using new Jaeger builds, the group must find a way to work together to stop the threat from wiping out humanity.
Pacific Rim: Uprising Review
Nothing in the Pacific Rim movies has been or ever intended to be particularly full of originality or substance. Guillermo del Toro's vision from the first film embraced the campy nature of the "source material", which was essentially a blend of every mech anime ever. It's full of terribly tacky one-liners, simplistic dialogue and plot, and great action sequences featuring giant mechs fighting giant monsters. That's the appeal. The necessary "fluff" that is the story is just in the way of what niche fans came to see.
I am one such niche fan. I love mechs. I love monsters. And I'll see them any way I can, even if the surrounding plot and script is garbage. I think this is a key mindset going into this film. As badly as I want a story, it's just not in the stars for movies like these. Maybe some day. But in the meantime, we get Uprising, and it's a reasonable sequel to a superficially entertaining first film.
Uprising does little to build off the first film, progress the story or deliver something new. By all perspectives, it's more an extension of the first film than a pure sequel. And as such, it benefits and suffers from the same strengths and weaknesses of the predecessor. Zero plot, forgettable characters, glassy dialogue, awesome action. I think I've driven that point home...
Uprising did try to fix something the predecessor most infamously dismissed, and that is a focus on unique mech elements. In this sequel, we see more than just the "Gypsy Danger" concept. We get a much more thorough look at other mech designs and their unique qualities. This was something the first film sorely and famously lacked. It was laughable how little screentime the other mechs got in the first film. Yet the first found plenty of time and creativity to expand on the monster designs and show their full array of distinctive elements. As an equal fan of both monsters and mechs, I was willing to accept the trade-off.
But I couldn't help being bothered by the fact that Uprising clearly took into consideration this imbalance in the first film, and yet rather than bring the mechs up to meet the monsters in screentime and creativity, they simply flip-flopped the scale. So, the monsters get far less treatment and the mechs get more fun. It's fine, I guess, especially when you take my sentiment towards this film being more of an extension than a sequel.
The plot actually started out promising, despite a cliche and completely unnecessary voice-over by Boyega at the beginning. The movie starts with the primary menace being a comrade from the first film having been brainwashed by the alien invaders. This eventually leads to mech/monster hybrids trying to open up portals to the dimension that houses all the kaiju. This all is reasonably sensible and well-handled for the most part.
But then the story goes ludicrously off the rails, introducing a massive plot-hole in order to give a completely unnecessary motif for the aliens...and that alien goal is to destroy life on Earth by blowing up Mount Fuji using kaiju blood. This chain reaction also happens to perfectly terraform Earth into a home for the aliens. Not only is it far too convenient, it's embarrassingly inconvenient to the plot up to this point.
If the goal of the monsters was to always blow up Fuji, why do they head away from Fuji and attack coastal cities in the opposite direction of Japan? California is farther from the Mariana Trench (where the original portal rift was located) than Japan, yet kaiju swim all the way over there to "work their way" to Fuji? It makes no sense...
And you'd forgive them if it was a necessary plot point that they had to try and work in. But no, it's pointless. The plot already had a direction. The aliens come to invade, they lose, they infect the brain of someone before losing, he tries to open portals again, more kaiju come through. Need a finale? The surviving kaiju in the following battle merge into one massive kaiju that must be brought down. Why bring Fuji into it at all? Why can't the giant kaiju be enough? It was not only poorly written, it was pointless. A useless plot-hole.
This movie offers little new material. It's basically Pacific Rim...again...with no attempt to improve story, script or even the action. It's all the same. Boyega does what he can with what he has, managing to deliver some genuinely fun moments, but for the most part the humor falls as flat as the predictability of it all. Yet, it was still fun, completely at face value.