Giant robots versus giant monsters, round two.
“Pacific Rim” was a global sensation when it premiered in 2013. Directed by this year’s Academy-award-winning director (for “The Shape of Water“) Guillermo Del Toro, it was one of those rare summer blockbuster-type movies that brought a strong sense of style and character to the traditional bombast of special effects and digital hardware.
Sure, it was still a bash-fest between robots and monsters, but so individualized were each of the humongous combatants, that the contests took on surprising dimensions far beyond our rock’em-sock’em expectations. Dare I say the robots (Jaegers) and monsters (Kaiju) seemed to have real personalities, and both employed intriguing tactics and strategies? Clanking tin-can Transformers, they definitely were not.
That can’t be said as definitively about “Pacific Rim: Uprising,” which features a lot more robot-on-robot action (a la the Transformers) than robot-on-monster fighting.
And perhaps inevitably, with all these added fighting robots, the mechanical behemoths lose much of their individuality and character. “Uprising” is still a loud, clanging, high-energy special effects show, like its predecessor, but it’s approaching the empty-headedness of the Transformers franchise, and that would be a shame.
“Pacific Rim: Uprising,” takes place 10 years after the climax of “Pacific Rim,” when the human-controlled robots managed to defeat the monsters, forcing them to return to the earth’s core, underneath the oceans. In the intervening decade, the world’s cities have slowly recovered from the devastation of those robot-monster wars, the giant robots now work as peaceful security forces, and new robot technology looms on the horizon: drone robots!
The original, 250-foot-tall giant robots were so complex that it took two pilots to manipulate and control them. These replacement drone robots don’t need pilots at all, just a “desk jockey” far, far away. Robot pilots understandably feel threatened. For a split-second, this feels like it’s going to turn into a labor union movie, but that turns out to be just a diversion. When a Jaeger suddenly goes rogue, it’s all pilot hands on deck.
In the meantime, Jake (John Boyega), the wayward son of the hero pilot from the first Pacific Rim movie, gets roped back into the pilot’s academy as a teacher.
“Jake. Your father always said he wanted you to be a pilot.”
“He said a lot of things. I’m not a hero like he was.”
“The kaiju, they’re going to come back. This is your chance to make things right.”
The kaiju are indeed going to come back — no spoilers here — and Jake and his trusty Academy cadets are about to get into the fight of their lives.
“It doesn’t matter where you came from. Who believed in you and who didn’t. This is our time. This is our chance to make a difference.”
“Now let’s get it done!”
In case these two scenes aren’t evidence enough, let me just say that most of the movie’s human element — as opposed to the robots and monsters — is hokey and cornball.
When the young recruits finally do engage in battle, they do fine work but it does feel like “Pacific Rim: Uprising” could just have easily been dubbed “Pacific Rim, Junior Edition.” It’s a watered-down version of the original: simpler and younger and not half as interesting.
But still, there are a lot of robots, and they sure are big, and boy, do they get to smash a lot of things. Oh, wait a minute, that’s the next Transformers movie.