Review: Pacific Rim Uprising

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

PLOT: Ten years after the Battle of the Breach seemingly ended the Kaiju threat, Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), the son of the legendary Stacker Pentecost, lives on the margins, eeking out a living stealing old jaeger parts and selling them on the black market. After a deal gone wrong, he’s forced by his estranged sister (Rinko Kikuchi) to rejoin the jaeger program, and help his former friend, Nate (Scott Eastwood) train new recruits – while at the same time they’re about to be made obsolete by new drone jaegers developed by Newt Geiszler (Charlie Day) and his new boss, Chinese tech genius Liwen Shao (Zhang Jin).

REVIEW: I absolutely adored the first PACIFIC RIM. In fact, I was savaged by talk back comments after I gave it a 9/10, although I think the rating has been justified in the years since, with people gradually coming around to appreciating the film once they get back the admittedly goofy premise of giant robots fighting monsters. Guillermo del Toro’s film had a lot going for it. He made the best damn version of a giant monster/robot movie that he could, delivering a film with warmth, style, and an incredible sense of fun.

The sequel tho – wow. Imagine the original silly premise without Guillermo del Toro at the helm, and you have the shittiest version of what the first film could have been in this by-the-numbers sequel. Basically a replay of the first, albeit cheaper and less well made, this is a strictly bargain basement sequel that’s been made to cash-in on the original’s popularity in Asia, without any real attempt to grow the franchise.

Director Steven S. DeKnight, best known for the first season of “Daredevil” and the Starz “Spartacus” series, makes his feature debut, and to his credit, it’s a technically proficient film. Too bad that the four credited writers (on Wikipedia) weren’t able to come up with a compelling narrative other than the old pilots vs drones thing (remember STEALTH?). Did you like the Kaiju in the first movie? Well guess what – they only show up here in the last half hour or so. Otherwise, the premise surrounds bad drones somehow infected with Kaiju DNA, meaning so many robot-on-robot fights you’d think you were watching another TRANSFORMERS.

It’s too bad because PACIFIC RIM UPRISING does have a few things going for it. It’s main asset is a charismatic John Boyega, who can carry a film pretty easily, and has a lot of rakish charm. He’s actually pretty good as the hero, who’s basically Maverick from TOP GUN (or more accurately Topper Harley from HOT SHOTS), although he has to share the spotlight with too many not as good supporting characters. It’s a bit annoying that he’s given a child sidekick in Cailee Spaeny’s Amara, who becomes a new recruit – although to give Spaeny credit she does a good job even if the character is pretty stock. Scott Eastwood is onboard as the Iceman of the jaeger pilots, who’s mad his old buddy is being given a second chance, but comes around in record time, calling him “brother” over-and-over in the climax. Eastwood appears to be doing a riff on his dad this time, and while they look eerily similar, I’m still not sold on him as a leading man. He lacks the edge and seems only to get cast because of his looks, and this is a prime example of that.

Of the returning cast, Charlie Day tries to wring a bit of fun out of the thing, but the film can’t help but feel like a betrayal of the character, although co-star Burn Gorman fares better as the comic relief. The other big supporting part goes to Chinese actress Jing Tian, as the genius CEO who inexplicably becomes part of the big final showdown. Her character arc doesn’t make a lot of sense, and while one can understand them wanting to appeal to the Chinese audience that made the first film a hit, why didn’t they just make her a jaeger pilot? It would have made more sense given what they do with her. Part of me wonders if the climax was reshot to make the character more prominent.

It’s really too bad that PACIFIC RIM UPRISING turned out to be such a poor sequel, as, again, I adored the original. Perhaps it was inevitable though as del Toro really has a special take that makes a movie like this worth watching, and he’s not easily replaced. This is a rainy day Netflix watch at best.


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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.