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Pacific Rim Uprising succeeds in delivering visual spectacle, but fails to deliver emotional
punch in a stagnant sequel to Guillermo del Toro’s brilliant 2013 film.
Decades on from the events of the first film, which saw humanity building colossal Jaegar
robots to fight the monstrous Kaiju emerging from the Pacific floor, the United Nations is
diversifying into automated alternatives.
Somewhat predictably, this backfires, and the Pacific Defense Force must face down a
revitalised alien invasion while dealing with rogue Jaeger pilots and traitors within their own
The hero, in another strong turn by John Boyega, is reluctant Jaegar pilot Jake Pentacost. His battle to live up to the legacy of his legendary father and his relationship with his
adopted sister provide the film with a desperately needed, though underplayed, emotional
The first act of the film features Jake eking out a living in the ruins of the cities destroyed in the first film, where he meets aspiring Jaegar builder Amara (Cailee Spaeny). The gritty
reality and enlarged police state of the earth post-Kaiju attack provides an immediate hook to the audience, but is shamefully underdeveloped throughout the film.
Other plot elements fall far flatter, notably the young Jaegar cadets who seem to have been assigned exactly one character trait each, and the love triangle between Pentacost, his co-pilot Nate and Jules, a female character as two-dimensional as the paper her few lines werewritten on.
However a film like this lives and dies on the strength of its spectacle, and Uprising yet again delivers that in spades. On the big screen the mammoth clashes pack a giant mechanic punch, a highlight being an Arctic duel between two titanic robots.
The special effects are excellent and sustained, though not substantially better than in the
first film. There’s an undeniable thrill in seeing a fifty story monster being thrown through a
skyscaper, and it’s hard to describe Uprising as anything but fun.
But these clashes often feel cheap, especially in the final act of the film, played out in
increasingly sterile and depopulated CGI environments. The people who live in the buildings reduced to dust are ultimately irrelevant to the story, and the world building hinted at in the opening sequences gives way to an intensely parochial focus.
Ultimately the film does little to surprise, with an attempted major plot twist obviously
signposted and doing little to add to the formula of Pacific Rim, beyond raising the stakes to the point where it becomes laughable.
The first Pacific Rim was a glorious, somewhat tongue in cheek take on gigantic entities
slugging it out in iconic cityscapes. Uprising maintains the spectacle, but sheds the visceral
desperation and the brutal human cost that raised it’s predecessor to be something more
than simply giant robots punching giant aliens. If that appeals though, there are worse ways to spend a rainy afternoon.