An almost parody of Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 high-concept throwback monster movie, “Pacific Rim: Uprising” is on the level of a Saturday morning cartoon. With a production and screenplay that feels and even looks very 1990s “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” “Uprising” lacks the edge and inventive fun of its predecessor.
Set years after the events that resulted in the end of the Kaiju threat, Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), son of deceased hero Stacker Pentecost, lives his life in the ruins of a demolished city. Scraping by, Jake skirts the authorities while selling Jaeger technology harvested from the junk remains of past battles. But when he encounters teenybop mechanic Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny), who has built her own mini-Jaeger, he’s drawn back into training Amara and other youngsters to pilot the big machines. Just when drifting and dual piloting skills are about to be honed, a new threat emerges. The Kaiju world may be sealed off, but left behind is a deadly, extraterrestrial, organic menace that can eliminate mankind.
Thoroughly ridiculous and cheesy, “Uprising” is a sad follow-up to a promising unique idea. Sure, these films are just monster movies, but the 2013 flick had bite and measurable narrative depth giving the effects more impact. This sequel is positively wince-inducing.
Boyega is fine in the hero role, but the watered down and over-calculated script has him constantly holding his tongue. Everything is a tired joke, as he banters playfully with fellow Jaeger pilot Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood). These contrived arguments are merely mildly entertaining and instantly forgettable. And this is because no time is taken to explain their conflict. Worse is a muted love triangle that is used to add a comical measure of sex appeal. It’s all as flat as a pancake.
And sadder still is the clever team of geeky scientists Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) and Geiszler (Charlie Day), who in “Uprising” seem to be pale impressions of their once more complex origins. Gottlieb is especially stale serving more as a cheer-leader than an integral part of the solution. Fist pumps replace meaningful dialogue, as he is shown monitoring the action with an insincere level of exaggerated enthusiasm. It’s like Gottlieb’s meant to be some sort of laugh track to induce viewers to pump their fists in the air in unison.
Like the recently released “Tomb Raider,” look for “Pacific Rim: Uprising” to play well internationally, with domestic US viewers giving it the cold shoulder. An entire subplot is built around several Asian characters, but in thoughtless fashion, the Westerner, of course, plays the big hero. There are 4 named writers here with another writer given character credit, and the story couldn’t be more plot heavy and leaden. I was reminded of last year’s big miss “The Dark Tower,” as logic is thrown away in favor of getting to lackluster CGI action sequences. Development is sorely missing.
2018 Oscar winner del Toro gets a producer credit on this one, but there’s nothing that resembles his creative touch in “Pacific Rim: Uprising.” It’s a complete reboot that effectively destroys any hope of launching a franchise. And this is a pity, because exploring an Earth after it has been ravaged by a monster attack could have resulted in a gritty and interesting story leading up to a meaningful monster vs. robot showdown. But this rushed and corny sequel isn’t meaningful, interesting, or any good.