“Pacific Rim: Uprising”
1 hour, 51 minutes
The world is full of sequels that no one wanted – movies that have no reason to exist. Movies like “American Pie 3” or “Bad Santa 2.” Hollywood is constantly trying to cash in on films that had even a modest success whether anyone has any interest or not.
This week’s “Pacific Rim” sequel is like that. The movie didn’t do very well in the United States and, though it did better internationally, didn’t really set the world on fire. Very few people that saw the original had any interest in a sequel, and yet, here one is. The difference, at least for me, is that I was one of those few people that really wanted more of this world and its characters. Which is what makes it doubly difficult that the movie is such a waste of time.
If you missed the first “Pacific Rim,” the concept is fairly simple, if a little off the wall. In the not too distant future, giant monsters called Kaiju showed up in our world from a interdimensional rift deep under the Pacific ocean. They trashed our cities for a while until mankind came up with their own defense force – giant robots that can fight the monsters. Each country developed their own fleet, for lack of a better word, and the battle was on.
Eventually mankind won and closed the rift. In part two, the world has moved on, though for some reason the giant robot, or Jaeger, program is still in place. Let me just say that this seems like an incredibly inefficient way to fight anything but a giant monster, but that’s neither here nor there. Now, though, the Jaegers are getting an upgrade. No longer will they need two pilots to strap in and mentally manhandle this thing – instead a drone pilot will be able to, singly, operate the Jaeger from a remote location.
This actually seems like a great idea, but the film treats this development as a travesty. As we follow our young Jaeger pilots through training, we get to know a few. Amara Namaini, a hotshot young scavenger who built her own Jaeger is the stand-out the group of recruits. In charge is Scott Eastwood as Nate Lambert and ostensibly training is Jake Pentecost, played by John Boyega. Pentecost is the son of the hero of the first movie, a reluctant volunteer who will be very disappointed to learn that the Kaiju are not as gone as everyone hoped.
There is a lot wrong with this movie, but a lot of the problems lie in the plot which is structured much more as a first film than a second. It almost feels as if an original version of this script was an original property about a group of soldiers training to defeat some particular enemy, and that idea was grafted on to a “Pacific Rim” sequel. The monsters don’t even show up for a good two-thirds of the film. When they finally do, they look pretty cool, but much of what they do and their objectives make little sense and have little to do with the original movie.
The majority of the film, the ramp up and training, is fairly dull and completely unoriginal. John Boyega is doing his best, but there’s very little for him to do with a script this bland.
Eastwood is the bigger problem, however. Looking like a bizarre computer generated de-aged version of his iconic father, Scott Eastwood looks and sounds the part, but just doesn’t seem to a be a very good actor. I don’t know know what it is – he so resembles Clint that it’s spooky sometimes, but just without any of the intensity.
I was very disappointed with this movie because it’s such a missed opportunity. I mentioned that I’m one of the few that actually wanted this sequel, but I did because I wanted to see the story advance. I didn’t need to see more scenes of giant robots smacking their fist into their palm. I didn’t need to see rehashed action sequences where more buildings get smashed. The big dramatic new feature for the robots is that they can now fly – sort of, and only using 50s-era rocket technology, but they can fly.
This is supposed to be groundbreaking? Am I the only one who thought they could fly already? I wanted to see the monsters’ world. I wanted to see where the original characters would go next. Not this. This is a prime example of filmmakers taking exactly the wrong lessons from a film. The same thing happened a couple of years ago with “Independence Day: Resurgence.” I was one of the few clamoring for that sequel, too. And there again they told a rehashed story no one was particularly interested in.
“Pacific Rim: Uprising” is destined to disappear from theaters soon, and from memory slightly thereafter. Maybe one day someone will try to reboot this series, but for the time being, the rift should stay closed.
“Pacific Rim: Uprising” is rated PG-13 for language, violence, and scenes of peril.
Chris Jenness is an art teacher, freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.