‘Pacific Rim: Uprising’ is action-packed and fun, but doesn’t quite live up to the original
Back in 2013, Guillermo del Toro released Pacific Rim, in which humanity battles interdimensional monsters called Kaiju by using giant mechs known as Jaegers. While the film did not do well domestically, it did do well internationally, as well as receiving good reviews, praise from creators of the mecha genre such as Go Nagai and Hideo Kojima, and developed quite a following and fandom. Now, five years later, a proper sequel to the film has been released, produced by del Toro and featuring the directorial debut of Steven S. DeKnight. However, while the film is fun, it is not quite as good as the original.
Story and characters
The sequel takes place ten years after the end of the Kaiju War of the first film, and follows Jake Pentecost (played by John Boyega), a former Jaeger pilot and son of the Kaiju War hero Stacker Pentecost. Jake spends his days in California, scavenging and selling Jaeger parts on the black market. Jake’s lifestyle abruptly ends when he is arrested by the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps, along with a teen Jaeger enthusiast named Amara Nanami (Cailee Spaeny), who build her own miniature, one-man piloted Jaeger dubbed Scrapper. Jake is then found by his estranged adopted sister, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), a former Jaeger pilot from the Kaiju Wars who now serves as General Secretary of the PPDC.
Jake gets recruited to rejoin the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps and train a new generation of Jaeger pilots (of which Amara is recruited to be a part). The Jaeger pilots are being threatened to be phased out by drone program created by the Shao Corporation, which would create mass-produced Jaegers that could be controlled remotely. However, everything comes to a grinding halt when a mysterious new Jaeger by the name of Obsidian Fury attacks a PPDC council meeting in Sydney. Jake and his fellow Jaeger pilots must unravel the mystery behind the rogue Jaeger and the new threats that emerge with it.
The new lead character Jake is a great lead to follow, and excellently played by Boyega. He serves as a good contrast to the previous lead: Raleigh Becket. Boyega plays Jake as a fun and charming character who has to come to terms with his past when he rejoins the PPDC, having previously left it due to being upstaged by his adopted sister, and the negligence from his father. However, while Jake is good charming character, the rest of the new pilots that he trains are not as fleshed out as he is. The exceptions to this are Amari: who suffers from trauma after seeing her family killed in a Kaiju attack, and Nathan Lambert: Jake’s fellow instructor and former copilot from the Kaiju Wars. The new recruits are simply used to fill out the pilot seats of the Jaegers when the final battle comes around.
Another major concern would have to be the reveal about the Kaiju and their creators: the Precursors. Their motivation for invading Earth is to reach Mount Fuji, and activate the Ring of Fire with Kaiju blood and minerals in Mount Fuji. This fact, unfortunately, does not line up with what was established with the first film, where the Kaiju would attack places such as San Francisco, Anchorage, and Russia. When you think about it, this plot point comes out of the blue and does not mesh with the Kaiju attacks in the first film.
On the other hand, the returning characters of Dr. Newt Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Dr. Hermann Gottleib (Burn Gorman). Newt now works for the Shao Corporation and helped developed its drone program, while Hermann works for the PPDC, working on fuel for the Jaegers developed from Kaiju blood as a well as a thruster program for the Jaegers. Both Day and Gorman play their roles brilliantly, with both of them showing off how they have changed in the five years since the first film, as well as providing some comic relief. Particular praise has to go to a twist surrounding Newt. It is revealed that he is being used as a pawn by the Precursors, the beings that are responsible for creating the Kaiju.
Action and Jaegers
While the film may not have the same quality of story or characters as the first, it more than makes up for that disparity with its action scenes, and especially the new Jaegers showcased in the film. A criticism that has been thrown towards the first film is that the majority of the fighting was done by the main Jaeger, Gypsy Danger, while the rest of the Jaegers were simply destroyed by the Kaiju. Uprising makes up for this by featuring new Jaegers sharing the spotlight with the main Jaeger Gypsy Avenger, a successor to Gypsy Danger.
These new Jaegers are fascinating and are given their own unique designs, weapons, and names, which makes them stand out, and gives them personality, for a lack of a better word. These include Bracer Phoenix, armed with a flail and automatic cannons in its, chest, Guardian Bravo with its electrical whip, and Saber Athena, with its dual blades that can combine to form a single sword. The fights with the Kaiju and Obsidian Fury are exciting, fun, and action-packed. Special mention should go to the final battle, which, to pay homage to the Kaiju movies and mecha anime that inspire it, takes place in Tokyo, Japan.
However, the way the film portrays the Jaegers and Kaiju should be contrasted with how they were portrayed in the first film, as well as how their respective directors approached the film. Del Toro took time to focus on world building and character development. He portrayed the Jaegers as grand and majestic, and the Kaiju as destructive. DeKnight, on the other hand, doubles down on the action appeal of the film. The Jaegers are portrayed as being awesome and the Kaiju being the bad guys they beat up. However, neither approach is wrong, and each has its appeal.
Featured image from SuperHeroHype
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