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Review – Pacific Rim: Uprising – Still Fun, Still Flawed

There was little chance that I wasn’t going to like the original Pacific Rim. Giant robots versus giant monsters? All directed by Guillermo del Toro, the man behind films such as Hellboy, The Devil’s Backbone, and Pan’s Labyrinth? That’s pretty much a sure thing for a sci-fi geek like me.

But a sequel to the same film? Not directed by del Toro? With major players from the original cast absent? Well, that’s a much shakier proposition.

Pacific Rim: Uprising picks up ten years after the end of the original film, which saw the breach the attacking Kaiju were coming through sealed. We meet Stacker Pentecost’s (Idris Elba in the original film) son, Jake (John Boyega), who fills in the Reluctant Hero role played by Charlie Hunnam in the first film. He’s joined by spunky 15-year-old prodigy Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny), all-business commander Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood), and a fresh batch of young teenage Jaeger pilot recruits. Rinko Kinkuchi, Charlie Day, and Burn Gorman return from the original, and they’re all welcome additions to the proceedings.

The story isn’t terribly complex: a new threat arises and a team of untested Jaeger pilots must defeat it. I don’t want to say much more than that, because there are actually a few surprises to be found, and it’s not just a case of more monsters showing up from the breach. Some of it is fairly well telegraphed, but at least I appreciate that the filmmakers tried to do more than simply rehash the first film with a new cast.

The film works pretty well overall and to be honest, I had a good amount of fun with it. The character scenes don’t work as well as they did in the original film (and even there they weren’t perfect), but luckily the film doesn’t waste too much time between what we’re all really there to see: giant robot/monster fights. The film gives us lots of CGI action, and whenever there are downbeats, they don’t last very long. It’s one adrenaline-fueled, high-octane brawl after another.

Another part of the film that works extremely well is John Boyega, who is an absolutely astounding actor. While he’s mostly known for playing Finn in the last two Star Wars films, his performance in 2017’s Detroit proved that he’s a force to be reckoned with. Here, he’s the anti-Finn: all swagger, cockiness, and brash humor. He’s the best part of the movie that isn’t computer generated. Scott Eastwood doesn’t fare quite as well; he’s in a thankless role and doesn’t seem to possess the natural charisma to break through the writing and really shine.

Pacific Rim: Uprising is a fun summer film that happens to have come out in March. It’s not quite as good as the first film, but the first film wasn’t exactly perfect, either. Check your brain at the door, and just sit back and watch giant robots and monsters destroy cities left and right. You’ll have fun with it.

Pacific Rim: Uprising is in cinemas now.

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