I finally saw Pacific Rim: Uprising last night, and my expectations were as low as they could get. I’ve been burned before, especially when my hopes were too high for Kingsmen: The Golden Circle. Sequels are difficult to navigate. Some companies produce sequels to make money, and other times it’s to further a story, but they’re not always successful.
On the surface, Pacific Rim is a big monster movie with a lot of heart underneath. It helps that Idris Elba and Rinko Kikuchi shine in Pacific Rim and carry the film overall. If you grew up on old Godzilla movies like me, then big monster versus big robot movies are an easy sell.
The Pacific Rim series is based on a ridiculous science fiction future where humans make emotional connections in a giant robots to save the world. Once you buy into that future-science, it’s easy to enjoy the film. At it’s core, it’s a story of joy, pain, and hope. Pacific Rim: Uprising knows the viewer understands the connection between pilots, and it uses the sequel to put women front and center.
After meeting Jake (John Boyega) on his stealing and squatting escapades, we meet Amara Namani, a super cool engineering girl, who’s built her own jaeger to protect herself. She’s reckless and I love her. Jake and Amara’s fates become intertwined early on, and they’re both shipped off to China where we meet Nate (Scott Eastwood) and Jake is revealed as Pentecost’s son.
There’s an unresolved opening voice over from Jake that bothers me, and what’s worse is that it does a lot of telling instead of showing. It’s lazy writing to reveal that Jake is Stacker’s son in voice over. Give it a more epic and organic reveal, please!
Other than this lazy voice over, I didn’t find too much evidence of poor writing. It’s an action movie, so the visuals do most of the heavy lifting. They also end up shouting a lot of the actions they’re about to do while in battle, but it wasn’t too annoying, in my opinion.
Uprising isn’t a battle of male ego and proving each other wrong. Jake and Nate put their differences aside to train cadets from all over the world. The two have an interesting relationship, and some unnecessary competition, but it was refreshing to see Boyega’s humor come through in a movie after he was horribly snubbed in The Last Jedi.
I loved Amara’s interactions with the other cadets, and how her curiosity leads into important discoveries, and teaches that speaking up is an important element to progress. The final battle was fun, and answered a question I had in the first movie: can you just switch pilots? When Nate is badly injured, Amara runs up to take his place and it works after a series of attempts, which is awesome! I’m glad the writers put faith in this relationship.
Also, lets talk about Liwen Shao, a woman who was at first made out to be the villain of the movie. She comes off as a stern business woman who wants to take over the world with her drones. I LOVED when they revealed Newt as the true villain, and she got a chance to shine as an engineer who has worked hard to accomplish her goals. In the end, she reconfigures Scrapper and remote pilots it into battle, saving Jake and Amara.
Pacific Rim: Uprising allowed John Boyega to shine, but it also put female engineers in the spotlight. Yes, Mako Mori dies, and I hated it, but we also get to know Amara, Liwen, and Viktoria, who are all proud women fighting for what is theirs.
This movie isn’t going to win any awards, but it wasn’t a shame to the Pacific Rim series. I would see it again just to see these female engineers save the world over and over. In the end, I’m happy that Uprising wasn’t an exhausting extension of one of my favorite science fiction movies of the decade. Maybe don’t do a third one, though. Just saying.
[Photos courtesy of IMDB]