You’ll Need a Jaeger Bomb to get Through this one
Starring John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Jing Tian
Released March 23rd, 2018
I love a good kaiju flick. Giant monsters destroying everything in sight is usually a good time at the movies. There are hardly any giant monsters in Pacific Rim: Uprising, with the film focusing much more on giant robots. I could take or leave giant robots. As you’ll remember from the first Pacific Rim film, these robots are “jaeger” mechs, robots so big they have to be piloted by two humans who use technology to “drift” into one another’s consciousness so they can fight as one. I’m glad we don’t have to drive cars that way. Ten years ago these pilots and their mechs defeated giant monsters who breached our dimension. Take that, monsters! I guess that’s over with. No chance they’ll ever come back.
John Boyega turns up his considerable charm to 11 for the role and mostly pulls it off.
Jake Pentecost (John Boyega) doesn’t want to follow in his deceased father’s footsteps. For one thing, he gave awesome speeches involving cancelling the apocalypse to his pilots that were about to fight giant monsters. For another thing, his father has a much cooler name: Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba, in flashbacks). And finally, because his father kicked Jake out of the jaeger program for being a delinquent shortly before he went off to die as a world-saving hero. Those are tough mechanical boots to fill. Jake spends his time stealing jaeger parts for sale on the black market. He’s not very good at it though, and soon finds himself arrested and sitting in front of his adoptive sister Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), a commander of the Pan-Pacific Defence Corps.
Mako fought alongside Jake’s father against those giant monsters and offers Jake a choice: go to prison or come back to the PPDC to train cadets. That’s how the younger Pentecost finds himself back amongst giant robots and young pilots all training for the day when the monsters return. But if I were them, I totally wouldn’t worry about it. Those monsters are long gone. It’s been ten years. I’m sure they have better things to do. Jake is reunited with Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood), who exemplifies what Jake would be like today had he not been kicked out of the program. Needless to say they don’t get along too well. When the time comes for them to pilot a jaeger, wouldn’t it be crazy if they had to put those differences aside and “drift” together? Wouldn’t that be crazy? Wouldn’t it?
Dr. Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) and Dr. Newt Geiszler (Charlie Day) return as PPDC’s resident kaiju experts, who are now working for the beautiful Liwen Shao (Jing Tian), who wants to create jaeger drones that won’t need pilots at all. Not only is automation going to take over the fast food industry, apparently it will be a threat to the fighting giant monsters industry. This leads to rogue drone mechs fighting jaegers with human pilots and eventually to jaegers vs. drones vs. giant monsters who came back to attack earth because they finished binge watching Trollhunters on Netflix.
Director Steven S. DeKnight at least keeps the fight scenes in broad daylight and Lorne Balfe’s score is fun. Jing Tian is great as always, in a role that has more to it than you may think. Rinko Kikuchi was the best element of the first film, but disappointingly only shows up for a few scenes here. John Boyega turns up his considerable charm to 11 for the role and mostly pulls it off.
Guillermo del Toro directed the first Pacific Rim, a movie I did not enjoy at all outside of the scene where a giant robot picks up an ocean liner and smacks a giant monster over the head with it. That’s just good cinema. Otherwise I found Pacific Rim riddled with astonishingly bad dialogue, bad acting, and confusing fight scenes that took place in muddy darkness. I liked Pacific Rim: Uprising even less. The decision to focus on the jaegers at the expense of monsters feels like an answer to Michael Bay’s Transformers films, and while I will admit this is a better film than any of those pictures, I don’t think audiences really care about giant robots. I expect the next installment to be released direct-to-video.