PACIFIC RIM UPRISING

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Steven S de Knight

Stars: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Rinko Kikuchi, Tiang Jin, Jin Zhang, Adrua Arjona, Karan Brar, Wesley Wong, Ivanna Sakhno.

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If giant robots beating the crap out of giant sea monsters and large cities being destroyed is your thing then this is the film for you. This noisy, empty, special effects driven spectacle is the unnecessary sequel to 2013’s Pacific Rim, a sci-fi action movie which told of the ultimate battle between man and monster. That film was directed by Guillermo del Toro, who is attached to this sequel as one of the producers and one of the writers; he was originally slated to direct as well but he left to make The Shape Of Water instead, which earned him an Oscar. But there is not a skerrick of originality to be found here as the film largely retreads ideas and plot point and beats from the original. And this is generic filmmaking and we’ve seen a lot of this stuff before in films like the Transformers series.

Pacific Rim Uprising is set some ten years after the events of the original. Many seaside cities are still in ruins and the coastline of many cities is desolated. The Jaegers, giant robots that required two pilots to operate, now lay on scrapheaps. A Chinese company is developing a program of drone Jaegers, which are more efficient to operate.

We meet fifteen-year-old hacker named Amara (played by newcomer Cailee Spaeny) a feisty and spunky orphan who has been building her own jaeger that can be controlled by one pilot. But her efforts have brought her to the attention of the DDPP. She is reluctantly enrolled in the jaeger cadet pilot program. Also caught up in these events is Jake Pentecost (played by John Boyega, from the last two Star Wars films and Detroit), the rebellious son of Stacker Pentecost, Idris Elba’s character from the original. He is a once promising jaeger pilot who has been caught up in a criminal enterprise scavenging jaeger parts for the black market. His half-sister Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) is in charge of the program that is developing a new generation of jaeger pilots for the drone program.

Pentecost has a fierce rivalry with their squadron leader Lambert (played by Scott Eastwood). But when the kaiju reemerge from the depths bringing mass destruction in their wake, the pair are forced to bury their differences and work together to save the world.

Pacific Rim Uprising marks the feature film directorial debut for Steven S de Knight, who is best known for his work on television series like Angel and Spartacus, etc. But here he seems overwhelmed by the barrage of special effects that dominate the material. The film features numerous extended fight scenes that are chaotic, confused, and ultimately rather repetitive and dull.

The dialogue here is rather clunky and woodenly delivered by the cast. Little time has been wasted on character development, which is rather rudimentary apart from the leads. Comic relief comes from returning characters Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Dr Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman), who develop a prickly odd couple relationship. Day is better known for his comedic work in films like Horrible Bosses, but here he brings an intensity to his performance as the corrupt Geiszler, who seems to be in league with the kaiju through some sort of neural transmitter.

Boyega delivers probably the best performance in the film; he has plenty of charisma to spare, which is necessary for such a bland character. And Eastwood seems to be channeling his father’s mannerisms and laconic, laid back style and drawled delivery. He is morphing into his father before our very eyes. And newcomer Spaeny has a spunky, feisty attitude that reminded me a little of Edward Furlong in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

The original did well in the Chinese market, and it seems that the Chinese have heavily invested time, money and personnel into this sequel. The film throws together various plot elements drawn from other similar films with the abandon of 12-year-old boys playing in the sandbox. Pacific Rim Uprising is a very bombastic special effects driven action film, but it is terribly generic and will appeal to 12-year-old boys. And that is the target audience for this film.

★★

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