Pacific Rim Uprising review: Steven S. DeKnight takes over the directing reigns for this high-octane sequel set ten years after the events of the first movie.

Pacific Rim Uprising review by Ben Read.

Pacific Rim Uprising review
Pacific Rim Uprising review

Hollywood’s blockbuster landscape has evolved and adapted exponentially over the past few years. Big budget action movies now come in all shapes and sizes, with more risks being taken than ever before. Unfortunately, robot-shaped offerings are burdened with an extremely poor reputation these days. This is something we have Michael Bay’s ludicrously mind-numbing Transformers movies to thank for. With that in mind, 2013’s moderately successful Pacific Rim seems like an extremely long time ago. The project was an anime-inspired labour of love from Guillermo Del Toro, which audiences were largely ambivalent about. Now, the sequel has arrived for more monster-mashing mayhem. The real question is, can the film justify its own existence in a world of Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle and Black Panther? Or will it end up among the ranks of Independence Day: Resurgence?

The plot picks up ten years after the events of the original, with earth slowly recovering from its various monster attacks. We are quickly introduced to the son of Idris Elba’s character (played by John Boyega), a criminal living day-to-day by stealing Jaeger technology. After being arrested, he is strong-armed into becoming a Jaeger pilot to prepare for the eventual return of the Kaiju. Predictably, Jake quickly learns what it means to be a hero, and live up to his late fathers legacy.

Pacific Rim Uprising review
Pacific Rim Uprising review

The first film was no masterpiece, but Del Toro did manage to inject a spark of energy and passion that is sorely lacking this time around. After leaving to craft his Academy Award-winning The Shape of Water, the reigns have been taken by Steven S. DeKnight (Spartacus, Daredevil). While this is an impressive directorial debut from DeKnight, the sequel largely fails to capture the same energy and excitement of the original. Gone are the days of the Del Toro’s stylized and elegant action. Instead, we have hollow and soulless fight sequences, which ultimately bear more resemblance to the final act of a Michael Bay film. Although to its credit, the CGI is far more seamless and digestible than that of the Transformers series. This makes it far easier to distinguish which character is throwing which punch.

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Boyega displays wonderful leading man capabilities here, in a role that allows him to shine in ways Star Wars has never quite managed. With a wafer-thin narrative, his charismatic and entertaining performance is clearly propping the script up for the majority of its runtime. Scott Eastwood, on the other hand, is yet to prove himself as the star Hollywood so clearly wants him to be. With yet another bland and uninspired performance under his belt, it begs the question of whether nepotism has eclipsed genuine talent with this one.

Cailee Spaeny also makes an impressive debut as the films female lead, Amara Namani. Continuing the current hot streak of strong female characters in the industries long-overdue gender renaissance, Spaeny delivers an engaging and authentic performance, that easily dominates each of her scenes. Unfortunately for every positive aspect of the film, it also grossly misjudges other areas. As a result, audiences are subjected to a character solely present to create romantic tension and poorly executed humour between the two male leads. A disappointing addition to an otherwise well-balanced and diverse cast.

Pacific Rim Uprising review
Pacific Rim Uprising review

The connective tissue between both films is largely implied through reference or flashback, but the delightful duo of Burn Gorman and Charlie Day are still present and accounted for. The film is hardly light on comic relief, but the return of these two is undoubtedly a highlight. Ramin Djawadi’s thundering score from the original also makes a disappointingly brief comeback in the third act.

Overall, Pacific Rim Uprising may have a difficult time convincing its detractors. However, fans of the original will easily find some harmless enjoyment in this entry. Viewers may also be surprised (and relieved) to learn that the heavy-handed marketing campaign actually managed to conceal some genuinely shocking twists. But, with an open-ended conclusion, and well-documented plans for a shared universe with multiple spin-offs, Universal may be biting off more than they can chew here. Cookie cutter storytelling might have fooled audiences five years ago, but Jake and the gang will have to step up their game if a third installment ever emerges.

Pacific Rim Uprising review by Ben Read.

Pacific Rim Uprising is released in UK cinemas on Friday 23rd March 2018.