Giant monsters and robots battle in this colorful, simply entertaining sequel with optimistic themes.
When the apocalypse comes, I want it to turn out like the “Pacific Rim” series. Mostly because I love the idea that when threatened with giant monsters, humanity does the most sensible thing and builds giant fuckng robots (jaegers) to punch those monsters (Kaiju). And the new “Pacific Rim: Uprising” provides even larger monsters and robots than before.
Seeing the first of the series isn’t really necessary, as this movie, set 10 years later, opens with the protagonist, Jake Pentecost, narrating how humanity defeated the kaiju and the repercussions. Introduced as a party animal and thief, Pentecost soon meets Amara Namani, played by Cailee Spaeny, who’s built her own jaeger just in case the kaiju return. Their adventure takes them back into the hands of the PPDC (Pan Pacific Defense Corps), a international alliance that runs the jaeger program. Which, Pentecost and Namani soon learn, is about to be shut down as the Shao Corporation innovates drone jaegers to avoid human error and the necessity for drift compatible pilots.
With the breach that let in the kaijus closed, the sequel at first seems to be adrift, reliant on corporate espionage to propel the plot forward. But this is Pacific Rim, and eventually, kaiju do return, although their reasons and shape must stay unknown for spoiler reasons. Returning to the kaiju allows “Pacific Rim: Uprising” to outdo itself in an effort to get the largest monster and the coolest way a giant robot can beat said monster, with a bit of suspense thrown in.
The sequel mostly focuses on fresh faces. While Jake Pentecost, played by John Boyega, is related to both Stacker Pentecost and Mako Mori of the first, he wasn’t in the first. Namani and the other recruits are child-warriors who’ve not known a world without kaiju. The scientist duo of the first, Newton Geiszler, played by Charlie Day, and Hermann Gottlieb, played by Burn Gorman, return but are separated for much of the movie, eliminating any of their fun banter from the film. Instead, the banter comes between Jake and his copilot, Nate Lambert, played by Scott Eastwood, who have an unshared but antagonistic history. But as the jaegers only run with drift compatible pilots, the movie eventually edges all characters closer towards friendship, meaning that tension isn’t really there. They eventually have to be like family; the giant robots wouldn’t work without it.
This sequel, like its predecessor, has a unique color palate. Unlike many action movies, which tend to run dark and gloomy, “Pacific Rim” seems to be cooler, brighter colors, primarily blues and greens. Honestly, the colors are one of my favorite pieces of the movie, along with the unique designs of the monsters and robots, because they reinforce the film’s tone.
The series is not one of the weirdest to come from Guillermo del Toro’s mind, but it’s certainly one of the more enjoyable, less cerebral ones. It’s a nice statement about how if humanity came together, we could defeat pretty much anything, with a speech that drives that point home. It’s a genuinely fun watch; Boyega brings charm and humor to it, and all the characters seem to be at home when inside the jaeger.