Director: Steven S. DeKnight.
Cast: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Jing Tian, Adria Arjona, Zhang Jin, Karan Brar, Ivanna Sakhno, Mackenyu.
|"Did he just call us Decepticons? That's it - he's fucked."|
Within the first five minutes of Pacific Rim Uprising, it is already a hundred times better than its predecessor.
The reason for this improvement lies in the character and charisma of Boyega's Jake Pentecost, the washed-out son of a hero (played by Idris Elba in the first film). He's a bundle of clichés - hell, the whole film is - and in the first five minutes we know what will become of him, but at least he's interesting, we can barrack for him, and it doesn't sound like his dialogue was written by a 10-year-old.
Because these were the biggest problems of Pacific Rim: dire dialogue, bad performances, and the presence of Charlie "Can't Lead A Movie" Hunnam (admittedly I haven't seen Lost City Of Z). In between the horrible talky bits, Guillermo del Toro pitched his giant robots (jaegers) against his giant beasties (kaiju) with CG skill and excitement. It was a shame everything but the mecha-v-monster battles was so lame.
So it's a great relief that DeKnight (making his directorial debut after years as a great TV writer on the likes of Buffy and Angel) has fixed the problems and made Uprising a really enjoyable piece of big dumb fun.
Set about 10 years after the first film, it introduces Jake Pentecost as a party-loving thief living the dream in a post-kaiju world. But when he is out-thieved by teen prodigy Amara (Spaeny), his attempt at revenge attracts the attention of the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps - the military force that runs the jaegers.
Jake is offered a choice - jail or return to the PPDC and continue the brilliant career he threw away all those years ago. The choice is obvious, but less obvious is the source of the mysterious new jaegers that are attacking the PPDC's robot guardians.
Uprising isn't going to win any awards beyond the ones its CG wizards wholeheartedly deserve, but that doesn't matter. It's silly but immensely enjoyable and has a couple of half-decent characters we can actually got on board with. Boyega is great - he's a charismatic lead with a deft touch for the welcome comedic moments.
Eastwood's character Nate Lambert is less well-defined, but he's good enough to make it work. Spaeny is suitably feisty and does a solid job, as does Kikuchi, who was the lone stand-out in the first film. Even Day and Gorman get a better deal this time around. Their pairing as the comic relief in the first film was grating, but here they are far more interesting and more than just plot points with bad jokes.
By doing away with most of the tin-ear dialogue (there are still some clangers) and getting better performances, the pacing improves dramatically and Uprising doesn't feel like a burden between CG bouts of the Godzilla/Iron Giant kind. Because, let's face it, that's why we're here - to see oversized dinosaur-types punching on with enormous Transformers.
Obviously this is where the movie excels. It's ridiculous and dumb and silly, but by gods it's cool. And it's exactly why the film exists.
There is nothing deep or profound about Uprising. But it does what it sets out to do, and that's have monsters fight robots. The first Pacific Rim did this too, but with a bunch of humans we either didn't like or didn't care about in between the cool bits. Uprising gets that second bit right, making this one of those rare sequels that improves on the original, although that's damning this bombastic and fun slice of sci-fi with faint praise.