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August 2018

Pacific Rim: Uprising

Platform(s): Movie
Genre: Action
Publisher: Universal Pictures
Release Date: March 23, 2018


Movie Review - 'Pacific Rim: Uprising'

by Adam Pavlacka on March 23, 2018 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

In Pacific Rim: Uprising, Jake Pentecost leads a new generation of Jaeger pilots against a new Kaiju threat.

"Pacific Rim" debuted to a mixed reception in 2013, with critics and fans seemingly loving it or hating it. The film was a love letter to giant robots and monsters, presenting a Western take on a genre that had its roots in Japanese TV and cinema. What made the original work was director Guillermo del Toro's focus on staying true to the genre's roots. For the sequel, del Toro passed the reins to Steven S. DeKnight, best known for his work on Starz's "Spartacus," and the difference in style is obvious.

Whereas del Toro emphasized restraint, DeKnight runs full steam ahead with the enthusiasm of a giddy school kid. "Pacific Rim: Uprising" doesn't have the gravitas or weight of the original. It is more a love letter to the idea of the original, rather than an actual sequel. It's just that this love letter was put together by a team of fanboys with a massive budget, rather than college kids with limited funds doing a short for YouTube.

It's loud. It's dumb. It's fun.

"Check your brain at the door" is almost a requirement for "Pacific Rim: Uprising" because the film rewrites some of the events of the original for the sake of plot convenience. Here, the monsters all have a central destination in mind. If this were true in the original (and "Uprising" implies that it was), much of the devastation would have never have happened. Still, outside of examples like this, "Uprising" does respect its own internal logic and presents what can best be described as part-action, part-comedy, and part-mystery.

Yes, I said comedy, as "Uprising" offers lead actor John Boyega multiple opportunities to chew the scenery, and he delivers. Boyega never tries to play it 100% straight. If he did, the film would have fallen flat. Instead, he hams it up and has fun, while at the same time showing some spot-on comedic timing. Once "Uprising" hits home video, there are a handful of scenes that are destined to live on the Internet forever as reaction GIFs.

The mystery part of the story offered up an unexpected twist and a roundabout way to get to the ultimate threat. In some ways, the film could have done without it, as a slow burn isn't the most effective way to get to the big robot vs. monster battles that everyone came to see. On the other hand, it's a level of story depth that you wouldn't expect in what is essentially a big-budget B movie.

As for the action, "Uprising" delivers that in both robot vs. robot and robot vs. monster form. The combat is solid, with choreography and camera work that allows the audience to enjoy the fights, but something has been lost in translation from the first film. In "Pacific Rim," the Jaegers had visual weight to them. Yes, they fought, but they weren't super nimble. Every movement was telegraphed and distinct. You instinctively knew that these were large, lumbering machines, just by observation. In "Uprising," that sense of scale and weight is lost. The Jaegers in "Uprising" are nimble and move quickly; in that regard, they have more in common with the "Transformers" films than the original "Pacific Rim."

"Uprising" is at its best when it simply blazes forward at full throttle. The story only really stumbles when it tries to replay the more dramatic moments of the first film. The drift connection that was established in "Pacific Rim" is still here, but it is more of a special effect than a unifying message as presented by del Toro. The same is true of when "Uprising" shows us the memory of Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny) getting attacked by a Kaiju. It's meant to evoke a parallel to when we saw Mako Mori's (Rinko Kikuchi) memory of surviving an attack as a child, but it falls flat and feels like unnecessary filler.

One repeat aspect that does work is the reuse of Burn Gorman and Charlie Day as Dr. Hermann Gottlieb and Dr. Newt Geiszler. These two social misfits are back, and their on-screen antics will have you wishing they had more material to work with. Their over-the-top characters pushed the line in "Pacific Rim," but they feel right at home in "Uprising."

When all is said and done, how much you enjoy "Pacific Rim: Uprising" is likely to depend on what you thought of the first film. If you hated "Pacific Rim," there's nothing to see here. If you're looking for a pure sequel in the same vein, it's not going to live up to your expectations. But if you simply want to see spectacle on the screen in what feels like a big-budget fan film, then "Pacific Rim: Uprising" delivers.

Score: 7.0/10

"Pacific Rim: Uprising" is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 1 hour and 50 minutes. It is showing in 2-D, 3-D, IMAX, and IMAX 3-D.

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