Pacific Rim only came out five years ago? It feels like a decade has passed since Guillermo del Toro’s film pitting giant robots (Jaegers) versus giant monsters (Kaiju) bombed domestically while slaying the foreign box office. That overseas success is why, half a decade later, another generation of Jaeger pilots are needed to tandem-mime actions so their giant, interchangeable robot with a name seemingly randomly generated on the internet can defeat a substitutable giant monster.
My description may seem dismissive, but I loved Pacific Rim when I first saw it. I also cannot remember much about it outside of its logline and stars—Charlie Hunnam and Idris Elba, neither of whom return for the sequel; recently minted Oscar winner del Toro is only present via producer credit.
In the new movie, the world must rebuild after the war with the Kaiju ended a decade ago. Jake Pentecost (John Boyega, a highly charming young actor who really risks being pigeonholed as sci-fi’s go-to hero), the son of Elba’s deceased hero Stacker Pentecost, has disappointingly turned from Jaeger pilot to scavenger/squatter/party boy. When he has to choose between real jail time and returning to training potential pilots, Jake chooses the latter, bringing with him Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny, who has the bland, blonde beauty of a Disney sitcom star), an orphan capable of building her own mini-Jaeger. Eventually, something related to the conclusion of the first movie unleashes fresh Kaiju on the planet. Rogue Jaegers, unmanned Jaeger drones and Charlie Day are also involved in varying fashions.
Its predecessor was entertaining yet ultimately forgettable; the sequel is even more so. Still, Pacific Rim: Uprising feels like a cousin of Robocop or, with its coed, futuristic military, that other Paul Verhoeven cult classic, Starship Troopers; however, this directorial debut of popular Whedonverse writer Steven S. DeKnight lacks either’s satirical heft to weigh down its paper-thin characterizations and plot. Its world-saving conclusion may even be too unbelievable for its own universe, in which giant robots battle giant monsters, which is saying something.
If the Pacific Rim franchise wishes to be anything other than slightly above-average VOD fare, the creators are going to have to come up with some more iconic robots and monsters. I still cannot tell my Gipsy Dangers from my Gipsy Avengers. But heck, it’s not like such knowledge would up the already sky-high fun quotient.
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