Pacific Rim Uprising is a little like the way George Costanza describes how women view him as a dating prospect in the Seinfeld episode “The Chicken Roaster.” George compares himself to a commercial jingle, “At first it’s a little irritating, then you hear it a few times, you hum it in the shower – by the third date it’s ‘By Mennen.’” Pacific Rim Uprising is similar in that when I walked out of this movie, I was a little irritated, but the more I thought about it and kept talking about some of its weirder aspects, the more it grew on me. “Pacific Rim Upriiiiiiising.”
If I recall correctly, back in 2013 I compared Guillermo del Doro’s first Pacific Rim to Fun Dip. You know, that candy that’s literally just a pouch of sugar that comes with a candy stick. Compared to that first film, Steven S. DeKnight’s Pacific Rim Uprising, at a run time of 111 minutes, is so lean and mean and devoid of any unnecessary scenes it’s like a packet of Fun Dip without the candy stick. Instead, just open that pouch and drink it down, baby. Honestly, it’s like when people walk out of a movie and say things like, “I liked it but it could have been 15 minutes shorter,” which is always an easier thing to say than it is to do. Pacific Rim Uprising is the movie that just went ahead and did that.
Uprising is set ten years after the events of the first Pacific Rim and a good chunk of coastal cities remain still partially destroyed after the Kaiju attacks and the subsequent battles with the human-controlled Jaegers. John Boyega plays Jake Pentecost, the son of Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentecost from the first film. Jake spends his time partying and stealing scrapped Jaeger parts from junkyards to sell on the black market. There are a lot of junked Jaegers, which leads to people stealing parts to make their own illegal mini Jaegers. This is interesting! The world we see when the movie opens is pretty intriguing and I wish we spent more time exploring it.
Jake gets into some trouble with the wrong arms dealers and finds himself on the run in an illegal Jaeger owned and piloted by Amara (Cailee Spaeny). They are both caught and given the option of time in prison or joining the Pan Pacific Defense Corp. (Or, in Jake’s case, rejoining.) They obviously take the prison time and the rest of the movie is spent watching these two just sit in a jail cell. That last sentence is a lie, but you can probably guess how this plays out. (Okay, I’ll tell you: They team up with Scott Eastwood’s Nate Lambert and Rinko Kikuchi’s Mako Mori to track down a rogue Jaeger operated by an unknown pilot.)
A lot of this movie takes place in China and probably more of it is subtitled that you’re probably expecting – but considering how well the first film did in China, this isn’t terribly surprising. Charlie Day’s Dr. Newt Geiszler is one of the only returning characters from the first film and, boy, does his character have a plot. I’m going to write a little bit about it because it’s my favorite thing in the movie and might be the only reason I started to feel favorable toward this movie. If you want to avoid all Pacific Rim Uprising spoilers (and if you are the type of person who cares about Pacific Rim Uprising spoilers, I think I have a few more questions for you, but just in case), maybe don’t read the next paragraph.
So, the first couple times we see Newt he casually mentions a woman he lives with. At one point he invites people over for dinner to “see the place.” The way it’s set up, we are led to believe that since the events of the first movie Newt has settled down and gotten married. Then there’s a scene in which Newt enters his very nice highrise apartment and announces something along the lines of, “Honey, I’m home.” Newt then enters his bedroom and it turns out that his wife is the Kaiju brain from the first movie. The two then listen to “I Want to Know What Love Is” by Foreigner. I cannot stop thinking about this scene.
The first Pacific Rim was a dumb movie that thought it was something more than that. It’s funny, the reason I love Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is that it somehow doesn’t have quite the air of “importance” that a movie that wins Best Picture usually does. Del Toro scaled back his “Guys, I have something important to show you” tendency and instead let the story just come out and it paid off big time. Pacific Rim Uprising is a dumb movie that knows it’s a dumb movie and just tries to show you a good time and doesn’t needlessly bog us down with too much character development or exposition because it knows we don’t really care. We don’t buy a ticket to Pacific Rim Uprising to know the backstory of any of these characters. We just want to see robots punching monsters – and Pacific Rim Uprising has plenty of that.
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