When the first Pacific Rim came out in 2013, I was absolutely blown away. It had seemingly everything I wanted in an sci-fi action movie, from giant robots and giant monsters, to one-liners that are both cheesy and legitimately motivating at the same time, to a relationship between a male and female lead that didn't need to be romantic.

And the fact that it was directed by the visionary Guillermo del Toro obviously was a big plus as well!

I often like to compare Pacific Rim to films like District 9 or Starship Troopers; now obviously, these movies (particularly Troopers) have a completely different tone and vision behind them, but I see similarities in the fact that they are all, at first glance, "big dumb action movies", but are something much more under the surface.

Now we come to Pacific Rim Uprising. The good news is, we're getting more giant robot action, and the film stars the very talented John Boyega in the lead role as Jake Pentecost. The bad news is, del Toro is no longer directing, and it's also a sad fact of life that sequels rarely if ever live up to their predecessors.

So where does Uprising stand? We will see. 

The film begins 10 years after the events of Pacific Rim, and things seem peaceful, because not a single one of those giant monsters called Kaiju has attacked since then. We're introduced to Jake Pentecost, son of the hero Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) from the first movie. In an effort to avoid his father's shadow, he lives a weird lifestyle that involves the theft of parts from old giant robot scrapyards, and partying in abandoned Malibu beach houses.

Jake gets arrested one day after he accidentally gets involved with a young girl named Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny), who built her own unlicensed Jaeger. Jaegers are what the robots are called, by the way.

Because Jake is the son of the great Stacker Pentecost and previously worked as a Jaeger pilot, and Amara displayed great proficiency with her own scrap robot, they are given the option to either enlist or go to jail. Obviously, they take the latter option.

Legendary via YouTube
Legendary via YouTube

Now that they're with the giant robots and at the military base where their pilots are built, you can imagine how things go from here. Jake has to deal with being in the last place he wanted to be and working with his old partner again, Amara has to go through the rigors of Jaeger training and deal with her fellow cadets, and so on.

This becomes secondary, of course, once a new threat returns and necessitates the Jaeger program to enter into full force once again. You know what that means: robots standing over 200 feet tall fighting other, very large things, and causing plenty of destruction in the process.

It's going to be difficult for me to articulate my feelings about Pacific Rim Uprising, because many of my largest problems with the film can't be discussed without spoiling the plot. In broad terms, though, I was disappointed because a few really interesting ideas were teased, and then just thrown away. My biggest complaint is that there was the opportunity to explore the theme of humanity's dark side, and then they just... don't do it.

I mean, I know the concept of "what if the real monsters were our fellow humans all along" isn't anything novel, but it would have been something to elevate this movie.

Don't take this cynicism to mean I didn't like Pacific Rim Uprising, though. It was a lot of fun, and something about giant fighting robots excites me to no end. This film has really great pacing, and provides a great balance between the big fight scenes and character development.

As far as character development goes, John Boyega does a great job as Jake Pentecost, although I worry he's becoming a bit typecast. In Uprising, Boyega plays a reluctant hero who slowly warms to his role as the movie goes on; now, he's a lot more of a jerk in this movie, but this character archetype is surprisingly similar to Finn in the new Star Wars trilogy.

Legendary via YouTube
Legendary via YouTube

The rest of the actors, particularly the young cadets led by Cailee Spaeny as Amari, are a bit one note, which is disappointing. They aren't bad, just not very interesting. Rinko Kikuchi reprises her role from the first film as Mako Mori, and she's fantastic, but she doesn't get nearly enough screentime.

The surprise performance for me, though, is Jing Tian as the businesswoman and developer Lian Shao. Her character felt a little one note in the beginning, but she definitely had a very satisfying arc through the movie.

Overall, Pacific Rim Uprising isn't perfect, but it doesn't have to be. It's a lot of fun, and an exceptional "dumb action movie". You might think I would be upset, because I was such a fan of the original, but luckily I tempered my expectations. I knew that with Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro captured lightning in a bottle, and I knew it couldn't happen again.

I definitely recommend Pacific Rim Uprising to anyone who enjoys action movies, particularly the giant robot variety like I do.

See the trailer below.

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