Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 film Pacific Rim, co-written by Travis Beacham, was a respectful nod to the original classic Japanese anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion which had debuted on Shõnen Ace in 1994. Pacific Rim set a grim universe where an alternate dimension had opened underneath the Pacific ocean due to tectonic shifts, unleashing giant monsters called Kaijus onto the hapless mankind. Although the storyline and characters were nothing like the ones in the Evangelion series, the essential allure was carried over to the film where giant robots named Jaegars were commissioned to fight back. Through a fast-paced, tightly knit narrative, del Toro established characters arcs which wound up beautifully with the story. Added with some amazingly shot sequences of Jaegars, Pacific Rim has held its own over the years, even after multiple watches.
Debutant director Steve McKnight’s Pacific Rim : Uprising begins a decade after the events of the first film when General Stacker Pentecost, played by Idris Elba, sacrifices his life while deploying a nuclear bomb to close the pathway between the other dimension and our world. Raleigh Becket, who had been instrumental in averting the last Category 5 Kaiju attack, has gone into oblivion. There have been no Kaiju events through the decade and they have become a bad memory for humanity. However, remnants of the war remain strewed across the beaches and cities that are still recuperating. Young ruffians called Scrappers now make a living by scrounging through the Jaegar remains looking for useful machine parts which they sell in the black market to make a quick buck. As it appears, General Pentecost also had a son besides his adopted daughter Mako Mori. Jake Pentecost is a dismissed soldier who now runs his own underground scrapping business. Unlike his father, he disregards authority and has no intention of serving his country again. During one of his runs, he stumbles across another young scrapper called Amara Namani who has secretly built a Jaegar all by herself. Before they can fight each other for obtaining the best parts, they are intercepted by the Army and brought into their base for running an unauthorized Jaegar. In the Shatterdome/base, Jake comes to know that a company called Shao corporation is building Jaegar drones that can be remotely controlled without ever needing a pilot or a compatible drift, with the help of Newton who had mind-melded with a Kaiju in the previous film. However, something goes wrong with the Jaegar drones and they turn rogue, wreaking havoc the army base. As one of the best pilots, it falls upon Jake to get to the bottom of the strange turn of events.
After the fluid screenplay of Pacific Rim, McKnight’s film feels excruciatingly slow and mundane with flashes of forced humor that tend to fall flat every single time. New characters have been introduced that had had no mention in the previous film. For instance, for a character who is the central protagonist and Stacker Pentecost’s son, we have absolutely no background as to where Jake Pentecost came from except a childhood photograph with Stacker and Mako Mori. Besides this, the sequel has a glaring continuity problem where there has been no mention about Charlie Hunnam’s character Raleigh Becket who had successfully thwarted the last attack with Mori. We do get to see an aged out, more mature Mori as the Secretary General but nothing about Becket. The premise rotates around some kind of tampering that has been done with the Shao company drones which have somehow been integrated with Kaiju tissues and, as a result, transform into biomechanical Jaegars controlled remotely by the Kaiju Precursors. Again, this feels like a far-fetched plot as the breach between our world and the other dimension no longer exists.
After the fluid screenplay of Pacific Rim, McKnight’s film feels excruciatingly slow and mundane with flashes of forced humor that tend to fall flat every single time.
Some of the best parts of the film feature the dynamics between Amara and Jake as they get to know each other, and then fight Kaijus together. However, those moments are very few and far between. A large part of the film is spent on establishing a new world order where Jaegars exist without purpose, chasing after small-time thieves who steal machine parts. John Boyega’s character Jake lacks any kind of motivation and conviction. Cailee Spaeny as Amara Namani shows promise through her rebellious problem child attitude. Her character is perhaps the only one that makes an impression, thanks to her skills as a machinist for someone so young.
Pacific Rim: Uprising has been unable to carry forward the spectacle that was its predecessor. The narrative is for the most part lazily written, with an uninspiring plot that falls into cliché territory several times. As an audience, you can see the twist coming from miles away and even then it fails to evoke any emotion from you. The sequences with Kaijus lack the gritty, ominous quality that made del Toro’s version so appealing. As an ardent fan of giant robot films, Pacific Rim: Uprising is a let-down and I refuse to include it into the Pacific Rim franchise. If you have to ask me, I would love to see a Gareth Edwards’ version. He has a unique perspective of telling monster stories and his 2014 film Godzilla was one of the most beautifully made monster films in a long time. Make this happen Gareth and Warner !
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