Reviews Zoe Margolis

Film Review: Pacific Rim: Uprising

★★★★☆

With action films, you get what you pay for: exciting adventures, suspense, and lots of explosions on a big screen. Pacific Rim: Uprising does not disappoint: it does what it says on the tin. And boy, does this sequel deliver. Fans of the 2013 original will, no doubt, enjoy this; it’s bigger, badder, and bolder, and is under no pretences as to what it aims to be.

Set ten years after the Jaegers (giant, human-operated robots) beat the Kaiju (alien-in-origin monsters, who first appeared through an interplanetary breach under the sea) in the Battle of The Breach war, it takes place in a society which hasn’t fully come to grips with the previous invasion of the planet a decade prior. The earlier battlegrounds now are Jaeger graveyards, and those living – quite literally – in the shadows of that, struggle to survive. Here’s where we meet Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), son of the late Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) – the hero of the first film – but Pentecost is no martyr like his father: he’s not fighting to save humanity from a monster invasion, he’s just stealing Jaeger parts from junkyards to sell on the black market.

This is where he encounters fellow thief Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny), whose building of her own mini-Jaeger, and her youth, small stature and speed all prove useful later on. Pentecost and Namani get caught by the Pan-Pacific Defence Corps with stolen Jaeger parts, and after his estranged sister, PPDC commander Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), offers a way for them to avoid jail, Pentecost re-enlists at the PPDC Shatterdome where he was once based, and agrees to train up Namani to be a cadet and teach her how to pilot the old Jaeger robots.

Unfortunately for them, but luckily for us, two new concerns present themselves shortly after Pentecost and Namani arrive at the PPDC in Hong Kong: Shao Corporation’s remote-controlled drone programme, developed by Liwen Shao (Jing Tian) and Dr. Newt Geiszler (Charlie Day), threatens to make the retired Jaeger machines obsolete; and strange and scary things are afoot again in the ocean. Pentecost is thrust together with his old rival pilot Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood), and alongside the cadet recruits and Dr Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman), they all have to come together to fight off the terrorising global threats.

Director Steven S. DeKnight created the story and co-wrote the screenplay, and the humour that runs throughout the film is evident in both the script and the performances. There’s almost an homage paid to the cheesiness of the first film – Stacker Pentecost’s “Today, we are cancelling the apocalypse!” speech is lovingly mocked, and it’s full of tongue-in-cheek and self-deprecating humour. Every time Boyega made a joke, the teenage girls sitting next to me in the cinema gasped and shrieked with delight, so it’s clear that calling out to the fan-base in this way is a winning method.

The references throughout are almost fourth-wall-breaking, and make what is essentially a silly, predictable storyline, funnier and easily digestible. There are arguably too many characters in the film, making it impossible to really care much about any of them, even though their performances are adequate given the material they’re working with, but Boyega is a standout delight and his comic timing and effortless action sequences make for an easy watch.

Zoe Margolis | @girlonetrack