Arts movie review

‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ is a great smashing movie, but it’s little else

The sequel delivers on its promise to be a good action movie but fails at almost everything else

Pacific Rim Uprising
Directed by Steven S. DeKnight
Screenplay by Emily Carmichael
Starring John Boyega, Scott Eastwood
Rated PG-13
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Despite the mixed reviews of the first movie, I happened to like the first Pacific Rim. Maybe it was the plot or the jokes, but most likely, it was because the idea of giant robots fighting giant monsters in high definition was pretty cool (Hey, I was in middle school, and that’s an impressionable age).

For those who aren’t familiar with the first installment, the premise of these two movies is that these giant, Godzilla-like creatures called Kaiju are out to destroy the world and humanity’s hope is pinned on skyscraper-tall robots called Jaegers. Jaegers are controlled by two pilots who are neurally linked as one. The sequel begins 10 years after the last film ended victoriously, with the world still recovering from the damage of the Kaiju War.

The film follows Jake Pentacost (John Boyega), the estranged son of the hero of the first war, as he makes a living on the streets and Amara (Cailee Spaeny), a 16-year-old, self-taught Jaeger builder and pilot. The two are dragged into service, as Jake was previously a pilot, and Amara was a new recruit.

Monsters appear and people die, and then the robots defeat them. Usually you can predict an action movie like this pretty easily, but there was one plot twist I didn't see coming, and in terms of an action movie, it did deliver all the exciting fight scenes that fans of the first installment will be looking for.

Yet the plot twist and the action scenes weren’t enough to save this movie. The plot was never really quite there, and when it was, it tended to drag. I couldn’t connect to Amara or Jake, and to some extent, it seemed like Amara was completely unnecessary to the storyline. The idea of a 16-year-old building her own Jaeger seemed too much of a stretch to me, and while I wanted to believe in the underdog, she was just another piece of fluff rather than a full-fledged character.

After having good fight scenes, humor is another key ingredient in action movies, and almost every single joke fell flat. One scene that was supposed to be funny was a conversation between Jake and his copilot over ice cream. Jake uses a ridiculous amount of toppings, which his copilot points out. “Don’t mess with my toppings, man,” Jake replies while stuffing his face with sprinkles. It was absurd to even think that could evoke peals of laughter or even a small chuckle.

It’s a little disappointing that, with this movie, this universe might not get another shot because despite the logical holes (“Sir! There’s giant monsters attacking Tokyo!” “You know what we need? GIANT ROBOTS.”), it’s a fun idea and a fun world to play around with. So, maybe in another five years, I hope there will be another Pacific Rim, and this time they spend a little more of that $150 million budget on plot and character development.