Editors Note: This is a guest post from Emily (also known as Kip) of RhubarbKipCosplay. You can find her (and her awesome Newt and Eleven cosplays!) on Twitter at @odysseyofgrace. RhubarbKipCosplay is a mother-daughter cosplay duo from the Fresno area. You can check them out on Instagram at @rhubarbkipcosplay.
The first Pacific Rim really drew me in. I went to see it for the giant robots fighting the kaiju and stayed for the awesome writing, characters, music, and visuals. What I thought would be a fun but basic monster flick ended up being a living world full of giant robots, cyberpunk city streets, rag-tag resistance fighters in huge mechs and hulking kaiju creatures. Needless to say, my hype levels were pretty high for Pacific Rim: Uprising. A chance to dive back into that world? Sign me up.
However, while Uprising really thrived in some aspects, it was missing some of the key elements that made Pacific Rim so lovable in the first place. I really don’t want to spoil anything, because the twists and turns in the movie are awesome. So, for the sake of first-view-integrity, I’m going to try and be as specific as possible without giving anything away. This probably will result in some vagueness when I try and talk about story.
Uprising starts out strong, sticking close to its roots. It opens a lot like the first, with a voice over on top of clips that set the tone and stage for where the world is since the last Kaiju attacks. Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), does the narrating and right out of the gate he’s charming, funny, and lovable. He sets a unique but very Pacific Rim atmosphere, lays down a setting, and launches into it.
The plot follows Jake and his life as he ends up back as a ranger in the PPDC programs after being given a choice between jail time or reenlistment. As part of the deal, he’s helping train up new cadets to pilot them (giving us a whole cast of new characters) alongside his old drift partner, Nate (Scott Eastwood), another new face, and someone Jake doesn’t really get along with.
The new characters start out with an interesting plot with new concepts that fit and expand the world of Pacific Rim in such unique ways. It’s engaging and draws you right back in to their universe. However, a lot of ideas up unexplored or ignored. They get introduced but never developed. Excluding Jake, most of the new faces are unfortunately forgettable. With too many characters wrestling for screen time, a lot of their character development gets swept away or forgotten.
Instead of stopping to explore a concept, like the Jaeger blackmarket underworld that Jake comes from, or why Jake left the Jaeger program originally, it barely touches on it or never comes back to it. I think this might have been due to an attempt to not be “risky” and appeal to a larger audience. That’s a real shame, because the ideas and characters they had were really cool and unique. Jake is already an excellent character, and I feel like if he (and all the other new characters) had been fleshed out a bit more, Boyega would’ve taken him to even better heights.
Thankfully, this isn’t true for the main plot itself. What it does focus on is an interesting twist on the formula from the last movie, and I think it was well developed and executed. The story that follows our returning characters is really killer as well. The Kaiju and Jaeger designs are amazing. A tweak on the old Gipsy Danger design and several new Jaegers, each with a unique weapon and fighting style. Each Kaiju was visually very strong, the fights are awesome, Kaiju are amazing.
Returning to the story are Mako Mori, Hermann Gottlieb, and Newt Geiszler (Rinko Kikuchi, Burn Gorman, and Charlie Day). They bring in familiar moments and aspects from the first movie and build on them. Kaiju biology, Jaeger tech, the breaches and anti-verse from the last film all add up to create a really engaging conflict and story in Uprising. The charm and tone of Pacific Rim really shines through when they’re there. The story that surrounded them reeled me in and kept me on the edge of my seat. Uprising is also a genuinely funny movie. Jake is absolutely hilarious and charming and full of snarky commentary. Newt and Hermann’s shenanigans are just as great as ever.
There was one noticeable change in the overall atmosphere of things: It’s missing that Del Toro brand feel from the first movie. The cyberpunk, gritty-but-bright, stormy, deep sea sort of feel that draws you in and makes it feel like it’s alive and real. There wasn’t any distinct coloration or appearance to shots. Most of the backdrops for jaeger fights happened on land or away from the ocean, and during a bright sunny day. It made it feel less like a Pacific Rim movie and more like Power Rangers or Transformers. The music, as well, is missing the iconic adrenaline filled sound. I feel like all of this was pretty integral to the atmosphere of the first movie, and with the added issue of the weaker new characters, it damages the story.
In the end, Pacific Rim: Uprising had many missed opportunities and unused potential that it cast to the side, and unfortunately it shows. But while it didn’t live up to its predecessor, it’s still really fun. Jake is the perfect new addition, and the twists and turns in the movie are awesome. When it got it, it really got it. I think both returning fans and the casual viewer will enjoy the movie. The spirit of the movie, humor, (mostly) killer plot and excellent jobs done by John Boyega, Burn Gorman, and Charlie Day keep this movie at a B- and not a C+ for me. All that makes me eager at the idea of third movie. I can’t wait to see where they take Pacific Rim next, and I hope they bring it back closer to its roots.
Movie grade: B- (Related: How We Grade Movies https://www.thefresnerd.com/how-we-rate-movies/)