More Action, Less Skill in Pacific Rim: Uprising

Bring on more of the gigantic monster-fighting robots! Pacific Rim: Uprising is the anticipated sequel to Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 Pacific Rim. Part of the reason the first film gained popularity when it was released was the vibrant inventiveness with which it hit audiences. Del Toro directed the first film and created with it a journey into the conflicted world which pits humanity against the monstrous Kaiju using the giant robots called Jaegers. It was a fun and action-packed adventure film which broke up the continuous flow of overdone narratives in action films at the time. Pacific Rim: Uprising unfortunately falls into the category of movie sequels which destroy the possibilities for a great franchise.

Where the first film held a novelty that elevated it to a higher standard, the sequel falls short in maintaining that level of originality. Directed by Steven S. DeKnight, who has previously worked on the Daredevil series, the film relies on gimmicks and overly dramatized dialogue to make up for its lack of innovation or character development. The story follows John Boyega as Jake Pentecost – son of Stacker Pentecost from the previous film – after he left the Jaeger program. He lives off what he can trade from the technology he scavenges, but his unexpected encounter with a teenage girl during one of his scavenges leads him begrudgingly back into the program. Sadly, not even John Boyega’s charisma can save the terribly cheesy dialogue he is given to work with, but he gives it his best try.

Newcomer, Cailee Spaeny, plays young Amara Namani, an innovative young mechanic and aspiring Jaeger pilot who has managed to somehow build her very own Jaeger from parts scrapped together. Her Jaeger, Scrapper, is probably one of the only genuinely funny elements of comic relief of the film despite its dubious creation. The film’s conflict likewise feels both forced and bizarrely put together in order to establish the same level of threat as that of the first film with the introduction of the potential antagonist, Shao, a highly intelligent businesswoman looking to get rid of the pilots of the Jaeger program in favor of remotely operated Jaeger drones.

There is not one character in the film who is as memorable as Rinko Kikuchi’s Mako Mori of the first film. Not even Kikuchi playing Mako again in Pacific Rim: Uprising can live up her to level. With her sparse screen time and role as bureaucrat rather than a pilot, her place in this film is a mere tie in to its predecessor. Many of the fans awaited her return to this film as the badass female she played in the first, but they will be sorely disappointed. She is a simple plot device used to bring Jake back into the Jaeger program.  As far as the other characters go, audiences will wipe them completely from their memory by the time they get to their car from the theatre. Scott Eastwood as Nate Lambert – Jake’s partner – is one of the dullest characters I’ve seen on film. He’s nice to look at, but there was no substance. The other characters training alongside Amara to fight Kaijus are given rare bits of dialogue here and there but nothing too memorable.

Another aspect of the first film missing in Uprising is the brilliantly vibrant color scheme. Where the first juxtaposed the  darkness of night with glowing neon colors to feed the eyes, the second is set in daylight and presents a  monotone and lackluster image.

The writing was the biggest issue of this film. The film has four screenwriters, including DeKnight, credited with working on the screenplay and yet there are still moments of dialogue in which characters leave lines hanging seemingly in the middle of a thought. The awkward moments in which the audience awaits the completion to their point are noticeable and unnecessary.

In the end, this film is not looking to create impactful dialogue or emotional investment with its audience. It is a film about giant robots fighting giant monsters. If that’s what you’re looking to watch, then you’ll find it in Pacific Rim: Uprising, albeit in muted and dull colors compared to the first one. All I have to say is Guillermo, please come back! 

Kimberly Morles is a Senior at FIU majoring in English. She is pursuing a certificate in Exile and Film Studies.