Pacific Rim: Uprising

I'll be honest with you, reader: It's been about an hour between watching Pacific Rim: Uprising and sitting down to write this review. Plot details are leaking out of my head. On one hand, who watches this film, a sequel to 2013's Pacific Rim, for the plot? Potential moviegoers enter their theater rooms to sit down, disengage from the real world (which, let's face it, is a pretty fair reaction to the one we're living in right now), and watch some monsters and some robots punch the living daylights out of each other. Indeed, here is a movie that provides such spectacle.

Perhaps it is my own resignation to the fact that I have long passed the point in my life in which spectacle that merely disengages is enough for me anymore. That isn't meant in some way that allows me to pin a badge of honor on myself. I have been known to enjoy this kind of thing in the past. I will likely enjoy such efforts in the future (Remember, after all, the words of the late Pauline Kael regarding the necessity for "great trash"). It seems to me, though, that the screenplay for this movie, written by Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, T.S. Nowlin, and director Steven S. DeKnight, doesn't take on the attitude that plot won't matter to its audience.

There is a lot of explaining going on here - too much of it, often at one time, in fact. The basics are established at the beginning: Monsters, called kaiju, were imported from some alien planet to harvest our world, and various soldiers were drafted and trained to pilot giant robots, called jaegers, which required them to synchronize their consciences in order to take control (two at a time) of the machines. The first movie chronicled the seemingly successful effort to push back against this threat, and this one picks up ten years later. Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), the son of the old general (played in the first movie by Idris Elba), is the hard-partying petty thief who must grow up a little by being thrust into some of a surrogate parenthood.

He does so by meeting Amara (Cailee Spaeny), a girl of about 16 who has built her own jaeger, which she has rigged to be piloted only by her. A global crisis builds around them when they are unwittingly forced into the servitude of Jake's old commanding officer Lambert (Scott Eastwood). It seems the kaiju threat was, predictably, not completely thwarted before. We see some familiar faces - Gottlieb (Burn Gorman), whose experiments have possibly led to the new threat, and Geiszler (Charlie Day, once again sticking out like a sore thumb), who has developed a strange kinship with the kaiju.

We also meet some new faces - Shao (Tian Jing), Geiszler's boss with a company that develops jaeger technology, and a string of cadets who might as well be interchangeable once they pilot the robots in the grand finale. It's all a thin clothesline on which to hang an array of action sequences, which feature neither the scope nor the imagination of those in the first film (and that climax, in which Tokyo is all but entirely leveled, borders on overkill). Those who will be able to look past the storytelling deficiencies of Pacific Rim: Uprising know who they are. For me, it's all a bit too familiar.

Film Information

John Boyega (Jake Pentecost), Cailee Spaeny (Amara Namani), Scott Eastwood (Nate Lambert), Charlie Day (Dr. Newton Geiszler), Burn Gorman (Dr. Hermann Gottlieb), Tian Jing (Liwen Shao), Adria Arjona (Jules Reyes), Rinko Kikuchi (Mako Mori), Max Zhang (Marshal Quan), Ivanna Sakhno (Viktoria), Karan Brar (Suresh), Wesley Wong (Jinhai), Mackenyu (Ryoichi), Lily Ji (Meilin), Shyrley Rodriguez (Renata), Rahart Adams (Tahima), Levi Meaden (Ilya).

Directed by Steven S. DeKnight and written by DeKnight, Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, and T.S. Nowlin.

Rated PG-13 (sci-fi violence/action, language).

111 minutes.

Released on March 23, 2018.

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