When the first “Pacific Rim” was released in the summer of 2013, I enjoyed the movie for what it was: an action movie with huge robots fighting giant monsters with little emphasis placed on an interesting story. The CGI was well-done, and the action set-pieces were captivating and overall enjoyable to watch. Thus, when “Pacific Rim Uprising” was announced and promoted as a sequel to the original, but this time with an intriguing story, my expectations skyrocketed. Combined with the fact that John Boyega of “Star Wars” fame would be starring in and producing the film, I could not have been more hopeful as I entered the theater.
Unfortunately, the film failed to live up to my relatively lofty expectations. Despite Legendary Pictures’ advertising the sequel as an enhanced version of the original, I couldn’t help but feel that I had just seen the same movie that I had five years prior.
There was certainly potential for the story to be one worth caring about, but the quick pace of the film’s first act took away that potential. Boyega’s character Jake Pentecost was set up as the son of a legendary Jaeger pilot who had failed to live up to his father’s reputation, instead falling into a life of comfort away from the battlefield. This premise is promising, but the film does not really address this fact much after one or two conversations.
Actress Cailee Spaeny’s character Amara is another example of the story showing flashes of engaging themes that quickly fade in favor of getting straight into the action. Amara is an orphan who had built her own Jaeger by scavenging parts from Jaegers destroyed in the war seen in the original “Pacific Rim.” Her family was killed by the monstrous Kaiju, and her struggle when revisiting that traumatic experience as she tries to control a Jaeger with Jake was an emotional moment that I actually found myself caring about. Unfortunately, after that one touching scene, the issue is not really focused on again, much to the film’s detriment.
While the story failed to live up to the potential that it displayed in certain scenes throughout the film, “Pacific Rim Uprising” was still packed with redeeming qualities that ultimately make it worth a viewing.
The film is ripe with comedic moments that feel natural given what is going on at the time in the film. Many of these moments involve Boyega’s character in some manner, and it makes me think that the comedy in the film can be attributed to his role as producer.
Speaking of Boyega, his acting performance in the film is fantastic, and my first thought as I walked out of the theater was that he carried the rest of the cast for large parts of the movie. Boyega made his character feel believable given his background and the situations he finds himself in even when the story seemingly falters.
The rest of the cast fares well overall, with nobody else really standing out for a positive or negative reason. Disappointingly, Scott Eastwood simply does not cut it in his role of Jaeger pilot Nate Lambert. He seems to be trying too hard to be the tough guy, and it shows through his performance in the film. He appears as somebody trying too hard to play the role of a young, rugged career soldier, rather than a believable character in the fantasy world.
The Kaiju are back for this sequel, both bigger and stronger than before. The massive scale of these monsters translated well on-screen, with the CGI still holding up as it did in the original film. The battles between robot and monster were fun to watch as a fan of big action movies, and anybody who enjoyed the fights in the first “Pacific Rim” will find themselves similarly pleased with the sequel.
“Pacific Rim Uprising” may have failed to live up to the hype that it developed in the weeks leading up to its release, but in the end it is still an enjoyable film to watch. The movie benefits from the much-needed comedic elements added by the impressive John Boyega, and the action sequences continue to impress in both scale and content.
This movie can certainly be enjoyed, as long as you go in with the intent of enjoying large-scale battles between monsters and robots rather than intriguing character development and a captivating story.