If Guillermo del Toro had followed up the most improbable Best Picture Oscar of all time by directing a sequel to his 2013 love letter to the giant monster genre, I would have been duly impressed with his temerity. Instead, Pacific Rim: Uprising was helmed by Spartacus showrunner Steven S. DeKnight, and the results are painfully predictable. Uprising is a flaccid, overwrought mess every bit as lumbering and unwieldy as the robots and monsters it depicts, deficient in every sense when compared to its predecessor. Del Toro genuinely loves this genre, while DeKnight seems to only love a big fat paycheck.
And “big” is an operative word here, as DeKnight seems to have tried to turn everything up to 11 in his attempt to outdo del Toro’s more nuanced world building. In the process, he’s lost any sense of character development and story logic, awkwardly inserting expositional dialogue dumps to patch glaring gaps in his screenplay. The result is a big, dumb collection of largely ineffectual set pieces and heavily CG-augmented shaky cam fight sequences that play like the sort of straight-to-DVD sequel one would have found in the bargain bin at a big-box store back when people still bought physical media.
The story, such as it is, centers on Boyega’s Jake Pentecost returning to the fold of Jaeger pilots at the behest of his half-sister Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), who has promised to bail him out of prison one last time if he’ll help train a new batch of recruits. Lazy premise? Sure, but it only gets worse from there. There’s some bunk about drone Jaegers, produced with the help of Charlie Day’s Dr. Newt Geiszler, though why any of this might be necessary when the portal through which the Kaiju were entering our dimension in the first film is never adequately addressed. Ultimately, things go every bit as predictably as one might expect, as though DeKnight et. al. opened up a copy of del Toro’s script next to a Syd Field screenwriting book and started copy/pasting silly names.
DeKnight’s sensibilities may not be entirely unsuited to a movie of this scope and nature, but that hasn’t stopped him from turning in a turgid piece of slapdash franchise bait. Lacking the star power of Idris Elba, or even the questionable charm of Charlie Hunnam, doesn’t help matters. John Boyega does his best to elevate the material he’s given in his lead role as Pentecost, son of Elba’s character from the first film, but what he’s given to work with is so pathetically underwritten by DeKnight and his team that it would have taken a miracle for him to craft a character arc out of what amounts to a slightly wavy line. I mean, this is a film that made me temporarily question my affinity for Charlie Day, a feat I would have previously considered nigh impossible.
If you liked Pacific Rim — as I admittedly did — you might enjoy parts of Uprising, albeit to a much lesser extent. If you’re a Kaiju connoisseur — as I also am — well, this is really the only pertinent film in theaters at the moment. But wouldn’t you much rather stay home and rewatch the first one? Or maybe Colossal? I loved Colossal. Or how about the original Gojira? Hell, even Night of the Lepus might be a better choice. My point is, you’ve got options. Don’t do this to yourself. Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language.
Now Playing at AMC Classic River Hills 10, Carolina Cinemark, Regal Biltmore Grande, Epic of Hendersonville.