It’s rarely a good idea to remove an auteur filmmaker from a blockbuster franchise and expect improvements. “Pacific Rim” was a flawed yet sporadically fun monster movie. It represented director Guillermo del Toro painting on his biggest canvas. Now, “Pacific Rim: Uprising” ditches del Toro but keeps the premise, to significantly lesser results. This is one of the worst films of 2018 so far. Big, dumb, loud, and pointless, it was clearly made solely because it’s a preexisting property. Nothing about the story needed to be told whatsoever. Painful to sit through, it nearly made some of those “Transformers” sequels appear competent by comparison.
“Pacific Rim: Uprising” fails spectacularly on every level. Ineptly written, indifferently directed, and without a single interesting thing, for its cast to do, this is atrocious cinema. Closer to a crummy episode of a mediocre television series than a big budget blockbuster, how anyone can enjoy this is beyond me. The only thing that the sequel improves upon from the original is that it’s shorter. Aside from that, it’s a significant step down on all fronts.
Taking place a decade after the end of the first one, we follow Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), the criminal son of deceased hero Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba). With the Kaiju gone, people like Jake make a living selling scrap parts of fallen Jaeger robots. A former Jaeger pilot, Jake doesn’t want to deal with his father’s legacy, so he avoids it at all costs. A chance encounter with a young girl named Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny) who has built her own Jaeger from scratch lands them both in prison. Saved by sister Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), Jake and Amara are forced to join the Pan Pacific Defense Corps, or in his case, rejoin. With Jake training new pilots and Amara as a recruit, they’re at ground zero for a return of the Kaiju.
Yes, the giant monsters are back, right as a program spearheaded by former friend Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) to use drone versions of Jaegers is coming online. Of course, that won’t go well, so it’s up to Amara, Jake, and a whole new group of pilots, including Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood) to try and save the day. Along for the ride is Newt’s former cohort, Dr. Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman). Of course, the much nonsensical monster on robot fighting will ensue.
You have to pity the actors in “Pacific Rim: Uprising,” considering the dialogue they have to spout. John Boyega and Scott Eastwood especially how some howlers they have to try and sell. Both seem to know that they’re in a terrible movie, but don’t quite know what to do about it. Boyega at least tries to make his wisecracks stand out a bit, though it comes off as a second-tier Will Smith impersonation. Eastwood is a void of charisma, while the series continues to waste Charlie Day. The newcomer to the group Cailee Spaeny is fine, but she won’t make you forget Idris Elba, who only shows up in stock footage.
Supporting players including the aforementioned Rinko Kikuchi and Burn Gorman, though they deliver even less than they did the first time around. Also collecting a paycheck here are the likes of Adria Arjona, Tian Jing, Ivanna Sakhno, Jin Zhang, and more. That being said, the robots are given more personality. Hell, the Kaiju fair better than the humans, which is really saying something.
Co-writer/director Steven S. DeKnight makes a less than promising jump from television to the big screen. His direction is soulless and incredibly boring. Cinematographer Dan Mindel had nothing to work with, and it showed, especially as every scene is cut to ribbons. DeKnight is perhaps even more at fault for the screenplay he co-wrote with Emily Carmichael, T.S. Nowlin, and Kira Snyder. The script is easily the worst one of 2018 so far, and that’s a tough bar to clear. Carmichael, DeKnight, Nowlin, and Snyder don’t come up with one original idea. It’s more of the same, only much worse.
Everything about this one just tries your patience. From the horrendous editing to the terrible pacing, the filmmaking on display is borderline embarrassing. Worse, the first act is almost impossible to sit through. Each set piece is telegraphed and pointless, while the third act finally delivers on the monsters vs robots action promised, and even then, it’s disappointing. “Pacific Rim” hid its action in darkness far too much. “Pacific Rim: Uprising” shows you more, but it just ends up showing how boring it all really is.
As a franchise, “Pacific Rim” has potential, though “Pacific Rim: Uprising” probably torpedoes all that. Fans of the first one will be horrified at what has come next for the series. This is another example of a sequel greenlit solely due to how the prior outing performed internationally. That means there was no creative incentive here, only financial. Believe me when I say that it shows. This is a giant turd. Run screaming folks.