Review – ‘Pacific Rim: Uprising’ succeeds via the joyous energy of John Boyega

Poster for 2018 sci-fi sequel Pacific Rim: Uprising

Genre: Sci-Fi
Certificate: 12
UK Release Date: 23rd March 2018
Runtime: 111 minutes
Director: Steven S DeKnight
Writer: Steven S DeKnight, Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, TS Nowlin
Starring: John Boyega, Cailee Spaeny, Jing Tian, Scott Eastwood, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Rinko Kikuchi
Synopsis: The tearaway son of war hero Stacker Pentecost is enrolled back into the Jaeger programme, just as a threat surfaces from rogue machines with unknown motivations.

 

 

There comes a time in the history of every successful one-off movie where it looks as if the chance for a sequel has passed. When Guillermo del Toro‘s plans for a sequel to his mega-budget robots-versus-monsters smackdown Pacific Rim stalled in 2015, it appeared that the time had come for the budding franchise to close its doors. Five years after the original film stuttered at the multiplex, Pacific Rim: Uprising has revived it. The subtext and heft of Del Toro has evaporated, but the remaining elements have coalesced perfectly to form a joyous, candy-coloured confection of blockbuster silliness.

The silliness centres on the continuation of the Jaeger programme, which is preparing for the Kaiju threat to potentially resurface. Meanwhile, Jake Pentecost (John Boyega) is living a rather different life to his war hero father, played by Idris Elba in the first movie, and spends most of his time scavenging parts from fallen Jaegers. It’s on one of these trips that he meets fellow scavenger Amara (Cailee Spaeny), but they are both caught and given a choice by Jake’s adoptive sister Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) – prison or the Jaeger programme. Jake reconnects with former comrade Nate (Scott Eastwood) to train Amara and her fellow recruits, just as rogue Jaegers begin to cause havoc.

Pacific Rim: Uprising doesn’t have two brain cells to rub together, but that doesn’t prevent it from being an utter joy to watch. Debut feature director Steven S DeKnight brings a palpable energy to his story, helped with an injection of straightforward, infectious charisma from John Boyega. Just as he is a bundle of energy and enthusiasm in Star Wars, Boyega is obviously having a ball here. He knows exactly what sort of movie he’s in and plays it accordingly, with Scott Eastwood doing equally stellar work as the ‘straight man’ of their double act. One scene, in which Boyega impersonates Eastwood, is worth the price of admission on its own.

There’s a surprising amount of screen time in Uprising for returning names from the previous film. Early publicity made it seem as if the scientist duo of Charlie Day and Burn Gorman would be restricted to a glorified cameo, but much of the movie’s action hinges upon them. Gorman perhaps gets the best character arc in the entire story and Day is at the heart of a killer twist at the movie’s midpoint. With that said, the film assumes a great deal of familiarity with the previous story and so it would be easy for a newcomer to get lost.

DeKnight, who was previously best known for numerous Spartacus TV series, is more at home when he’s at the helm of the action. It’s even more ridiculous and over-cranked than in the first movie, with the glorious technicolor of a bright colour palette evoking the feel of the recent Power Rangers reboot or the Saturday morning cartoons that inspired it. The nuance of Del Toro’s action is gone, but when it’s replaced by John Boyega yelling quips about “how many buildings” a creature can withstand, it’s tough to mourn the passing of that depth too much.

Given how much of an unwanted gift Pacific Rim: Uprising has seemed throughout its pre-release marketing campaign, it’s a stunning feat that the final result is such an entertaining tale. It’s a bit of a mess and it’s as thick as two short planks, but Boyega’s unashamedly silly energy is a real delight and, suddenly, the idea of a threequel is something that seems attractive. Who saw that one coming?

 

Pop or Poop?

Rating: Pop!

Rather than going for bigger with his sequel to what was already a behemoth of a movie, Steven S DeKnight opts to turn up the brightness and the volume with Pacific Rim: Uprising. Where the original Guillermo del Toro film was as serious as it was spectacular, Uprising leans in to its silliness, with the help of John Boyega as the Duracell bunny of the project.

It’s not clever on any level and anyone in search of depth will be left wanting, but there’s more than enough spectacle here to please anyone on the hunt for simple popcorn thrills.

 

Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.

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