a critiQal film review Pacific Rim Uprising (2018)

Plot: Rebellious Jake Pentecost (Boyega), a once-promising Jaeger pilot whose legendary father gave his life to secure humanity against the monstrous "Kaiju", has since abandoned his training only to become caught up in the criminal underworld. But when an even more unstoppable threat is unleashed, he is given one last chance to live up to his father's legacy.

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After watching Pacific Rim (2013), we couldn’t wait to dive into the sequel, Pacific Rim Uprising. But would that rock ’em sock ’em appeal continue in the sequel? Or was director Guillermo del Toro going to be the biggest loss in this second film?

In the first film, one of the biggest complaints was the wooden acting. Thankfully, the filmmakers listened, and John Boyega leads a stronger cast overall in Pacific Rim Uprising. While their isn’t anyone like Idris Elba this time around, John Boyega is an up-and-comer who really seems to have a solid grasp on the whole acting in action movies thing. After his turns in both Attack the Block (2011) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), he’s definitely a star on the rise. In this film, he once again proves why, lending a credibility to the main character that was missing in the previous film.

The rest of the cast is decent as well, but they could definitely use a strong, more experienced, actor to guide them – and the viewers – along (like, say, Idris Elba). Instead the cast of Pacific Rim Uprising is a bit more fresh-faced than in the original. Still, with Boyega’s help, newcomer Cailee Spaeny shows promise. Scott Eastwood isn’t bad either, and it’s nice to see some continuity in bringing back Kikuchi and Charlie Day (although Charlie Hunnam is noticeable by his absence).

Unfortunately, as with lots of unplanned sequels, Pacific Rim Uprising has to do a bit to try to follow along the path of the original – even though Pacific Rim (2013) did a nice job of wrapping things up. On more points than expected, this sequel succeeds in that area. There are lots of glaring flaws, however, that really throw the viewer for a loop (for instance, now the wormhole can be opened anywhere under the ocean, as long as lasers are shot at it? Huh? And why are the Jaeger forces expanding at an enormous rate? Wasn’t the threat neutralized and the war over like, 10 years ago? They should have disbanded, not expanded. Right?). These are hard to ignore in the film, and are a giant disappointment.

Also gone in Pacific Rim Uprising, sadly, is the fun and inventiveness that Guillermo del Toro had during the robot vs monster fights. This time around, they seem to be a lot more cut-and-dried, and don’t bring that same thrill. Sure, they are still CGI spectacles, but the sheer entertainment value of these fights has dropped a notch.

Judging by the way Pacific Rim Uprising left the door open for sequels, it looks like this may be becoming the new Transformers (2007) – sequel after sequel, endlessly, until they all just kind of start blending in together. None of them as good as the original, and the series slowly dying a painful death.

Let’s hope not. After all, Pacific Rim Uprising was able to create a better cast than the original, even if they did manage to take most of the fun out of the main attraction (robots vs. monsters) and introduced a few glaring errors that are hard to ignore. While the casting choices have improved, why did they bother, if they were just going to turn those robot vs. monster fights – the whole reason people are going to see the film in the first place – into nothing more than paint-by-number sequences?

Worth watching for Boyega, Spaeny, and just to see how they managed to keep the story going, Pacific Rim Uprising – without Guillermo del Toro at the helm – is nowhere near the gleefully inventive rock ’em sock ’em sequel we had been hoping for.

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