by James and Ava Van Dyke
Pacific Rim is one of the most polarising action films. Directed by Del Toro, the original saw humanity create battling robots named Jaegers in order to defend the world from Kaiju aliens invading. The film has many detractors, often citing boredom or silliness as their reasons for criticism, but here at We Make Movies On Weekends, we adore the film for its inventive action sequences, gun-ho scrappy characters, and a heart-filled story at the centre of it.
With anything remotely successful, a sequel will eventually be developed. Despite Del Toro initially wanting to direct, the mantle fell to director Steven S DeKnight and leading man (and producer) John Boyega to continue the Pacific Rim legacy with Uprising.
Set ten years after the events of the first film, the film revolves around Jake Pentacost. Consider the son of Idris Elbra’s heroic captain in the original, Jake makes a living selling Jaeger scraps on the black market. A shadowy Shao Corporation develops a Jaeger drone program, combing technology and Kaiju biology that would eventually make pilots redundant. However, when the Jaeger’s start going rogue, it’s up to Jake and amateur Jaeger pilot Amara Amani to save the day, with the guidance of Mako, Jake’s adopted sister.
Fans of Del Toro’s work in the first film will be sorely disappointed to find the movie is more Michael Bay than innovative action garb. Here, the action is the biggest highlights whilst the characterisation and plot fall short of anything truly gripping. There’s a pretty tight plot and the pace never slows, but that is detriment to us caring too deeply about the characters. In the first film, Riley and Mako were spirited centres that grounded the film in realism and heart. Despite Boyega’s best efforts, it’s hard to care too deeply about all involved.
That being said, Boyega has enough charm to carry the film. Even though there is a bit of a gap with Charlie Hunnam’s Riley no longer being part of the universe and even with the issues of action over story, Boyega’s presence is ultimately an improvement on the one-faced heroes of the original. Boyega is a movie star: His charisma fills up the screen every second he is in it. There is a lot of confidence in Jake and Boyega is able to make him a lovable hero not dissimilar to his work with Star Wars’ Finn.
Newcomer Amara Amani is a great counterpart to Boyega and, despite the sluicing down of the material, Amani is a strong female character to match Boyega. It may be dumb, but the cast are clearly having a fun time with it all and that kinetic energy comes off the screen.
Pacific Rim: Uprising is alright. It’s neither ground-breaking, necessary, or surpasses any of the countless other action sci-fi films out there. However, there’s enough in the spirited cast and some impressive fight sequences that’ll keep you entertained at the very least.
Pacific Rim: Uprising is out March 23rd