By now, you’ve had plenty of time to adjust to Pacific Rim: Uprising being in the hands of director Steven S. DeKnight instead of Guillermo del Toro. You’ve also (hopefully) seen the project that dragged him away, The Shape of Water and forgiven del Toro for opting to put his energy elsewhere. Pacific Rim: Uprising hits theaters this Friday and the time has come to return to the world of Jagers!
Pacific Rim: Uprising’s Story
Stacker’s son, Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), is a fast-talking hustler living legacy-free on the fringes of society. A Jager pilot program washed-out, Jake uses his charm, wits, and tech skills to get money and live the high life. 10 years after Stacker Pentecost’s (Idris Elba) sacrifice secured humanity’s victory over the Precursors and their Kaijus monsters the world invasion-free. This Pentecost isn’t looking to be a hero or live up to his father’s heroic name.
When a young scavenger Amara (Cailee Spaeny) beats Jack to a valuable piece of Jager tech; he ends up (alongside Amara) in jail looking at serious time. His sister, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), uses this to reel him back into the family business. With little choice, Jake agrees to become a pilot trainer. He and his scavaged Jager-building young companion join the Pan Pacific Defense Corps (PPDC).
Before he’s can wrap his head around being back, he’s confronted with his former drift partner (and now lead trainer) Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood) who’s far from pleased to see him back in the saddle.
Despite no sign of breaches or new Kaiju invasions, drift compatible people are still highly desirable. This time around, the Jager program’s catching them young and training them early. But industry titan, Liwen Shao (Tian Jing) wants to lead the next wave of defense against potential threats. She’s developed a drone Jager program and she’s ready to go global.
But someone’s looking to use her program against the world.
The Plot Brings Out the Best in its Cast
As opening go, this one hits hard and fast. We learn the state of the world and the political landscape without too much data dumping, the cinematic feel of this world is dynamic and visually engaging. The slick feel matches the pithy timing of the dialogue and the in-motion character development that be a trademark of the entire film.
John Boyega takes up the Pentecost moniker and does it justice. He’s witty, roguish and fine as hell (sorry, I forgot myself for a minute. Listening to him speak made me thirst…). Boyega is brash, defensive, and charismatic as an emotionally conflicted young man running from his mistakes. His broody and irreverent energy and character dovetail nicely into the rest of this young cast making up the new generation.
There were a few moments where old characters didn’t quite gel with the more irreverent tone. Dr. Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) and Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) are back and still our Kaiju experts. But this time, something is off in their relationship and while it works to set up an unsettling note in the film that proves important, the pair’s dialogue is slightly out of sync so their scenes lack the biting humor of the original. In the long run, it works out but it pulls you out of the story a time or two.
Pacific Rim: Uprising is deliberately awkward at times in a way that effectively sets the team’s maturity level. The change makes room for new personalities and new adventures. It sets a rhythm that falters occasionally but for the most part, keeps this crew on steady, solid ground.
The Subplots Should Be Movies
I won’t lie, I think a few of the red herrings (you’ll know what I mean when you see them) would’ve made for a more compelling story-line for Uprising.
There are some subplots that were far far more interesting than a renewed pitch battled between Jagers and Kaiju. Liwen Shao character, in particular, is perfectly set-up and played with utter badassness by Tian Jing. She’s ruthless, brilliant, with a side of vicious ambition. I was all in for what I thought would be the story direction and despite enjoying the twist and reveal that takes place in the second act, I was disappointed it led to the abandonment of this one.
In this post-breach world, the concept of rogue Jagers creates the opening to logically integrate Amara Namani into the story arc. She’s a street kid with serious tech skills. But there’s another rogue Jager that I couldn’t get enough of. I can’t say much without spoiling a major plot point, but let’s just say this Jager should’ve been used as more than a plot device and not just because it features in one of the film’s sickest fight sense. It’s a loose thread that never gets fully pulled and damned if it didn’t make me wish the villain reveal took a different direction.
I freely admit that what I liked about these subplots is they set a darker, more edgy tone and character-driven plot. But I solemnly swear to always root for maximum mayhem.
Had Pacific Rim: Uprising played it that way, a fun movie would’ve been epic.Have you seen the movie yet? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!