Thursday, March 22, 2018

Giant Robots vs. Giant Robots vs. Monsters on the Pacific Rim

I enjoyed 2013's Pacific Rim as a throwaway action flick with sci-fi influences featuring robots fighting monsters, but aside from the possibility of having the robots fighting big-name threats like King Kong and Godzilla I wasn't much interested in a sequel. Without director Guillermo del Toro, who is replaced here by Steven S. DeKnight, and returning stars only in supporting roles, Pacific Rim: Uprising has all the flaws of a bloated, over-complicated sequel trying to out-do the original. It also doesn't help that the number of robot vs. robot scenes remind the viewer (painfully) of Michael Bay's Transformers franchise.

Set a decade after the original film, the sequel centers around the never-before-mentioned son of Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) who is forced to re-enlist after trouble with the law. John Boyega works fine as Jake Pentecost, even if the script can never quite decide how disinterested or invested he should be in the Jaeger program. The sequel also plays fast and loose with the core concept of paired drifting being as much art as science by throwing pairs randomly together once the action gets fast and furious. Cailee Spaeny co-stars as a troubled but talented teen who also joins Jake in the program as part of a plea deal.

With the Kaiju long gone, Jake is still brought in to train a group of forgettable young pilots whose names we can't be bothered to remember while a wealthy CEO (Tian Jing) pushes for a move to drone-controlled Jaegers. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman reprise their roles as scientists from the first film (as we now see the consequences of their actions to drift with a Kaiju), and we get limited screentime from Rinko Kikuchi. A one-note Scott Eastwood heads up the new cast members as the cliched gruff soldier while Adria Arjona (as a mechanic, I think? her role isn't well defined) is put to such little use that I kept forgetting she was even in the film.

The plot of Jake's redemption, rogue Jaegers, the politics of the drone program, young trainees attempting to earn their stripes, Spaeny's character building a Transformer, dealing with her rough past and attempting to fit in, and the undeveloped love triangle between Boyega, Arjona, and Eastwood, is a mishmash of placeholder content used to stretch out the film between battle scenes. Pacific Rim: Uprising is about what I expected from the first movie, so it's not really much of a disappointment. Honestly, it's not much of anything.

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