It has been ten years since Raleigh Becket and Mako Mori closed the Breach and ended the Kaiju war. Mori is now in charge of the Pan-Pacific Defence Corp (PPDC) which stands ready should a new Kaiju threat appear, they're also busy policing the black market trade in Jaeger tech. When one of those traders - Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), former Jaeger pilot and son of the legendary Stacker Pentecost - lands on the PPDC's radar, he's given a choice; prison or re-join the PPDC as an instructor. But with certain parties looking to privatise the Jaeger program, the next threat Jake and his fellow Rangers face may be a little closer to home.
In his feature film directorial debut Steven S. DeKnight, the man behind the Marvel/Netflix show Daredevil takes over from Guillermo del Toro who took a back seat in order to direct The Shape of Water. DeKnight has done a good job of recreating the world seen in the original. We get a glimpse of how the world is and isn't recovering from the long and destructive Kaiju war. The PPDC may be back at full strength but the Pacific Rim is still littered with remnants and ruins of the conflict.
There are some interesting new Jaegers and Kaiju, all of which look spectacular thanks to some very good CGI. It's also good to see some returning characters including Mako Mori, Doctor Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Doctor Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) who I'm pleased to say has tuned some of the stereotypical English scientist out of his performance. Writing duties this time round fell to DeKnight, Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder and T.S. Nowlin. Together they have delivered a script that based on the ending of the first movie, takes the story in an interesting direction.
The real question though; is it as good as the original? Well in a word...no. I don't think Uprising is a bad movie, but it feels like something is missing. And that something is probably del Toro. Well that and the Kaiju, who - given that it's supposed to be a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters - take forever to show up! There are some good Jaeger vs Jaeger fights, but it's just not the same. In fact if you didn't know any better, you'd think you were watching a Transformers movie. And that's the real problem, Uprising is just too generic. In the jump from the first movie to here, we've lost that del Toro quirkiness.
All of the actors deliver good performances - Boyega being one of the best things about this movie - the only problem is their characters are all too bland, lacking any form of real development. Boyega and Kikuchi have good chemistry, they are very believable as brother and sister. It's a shame then that given her importance to the story, Kikuchi is criminally under utilised. Something made worse by the fact there's just not enough to these new characters for us to care about what happens to them. To me the most interesting character is Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny), a young orphan recruited into the program after she builds and pilots her own Jaeger, but they just don't do enough with her. There's also an issue with the arcs of two other characters but to discuss that would mean drifting into spoilers.
Overall, Pacific Rim: Uprising is an easy watch, it's fun and the visuals are great. The plot picks up at a logical point in time after the events of Pacific Rim and is original enough to not be a carbon copy of the first movie. But the two dimensional characters fail to truly draw you in and the lack of robots fighting monsters only makes it worse, because that's the very thing you wanted to see. All things being considered, you're better off re-watching Pacific Rim.
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