Pacific Rim Uprising Spoiler Review

(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: Steven S. DeKnight’s Pacific Rim Uprising.)

When it was announced that Guillermo del Toro wouldn’t be coming back for a sequel to his 2013 sci-fi action adventure Pacific Rim, fans of the original movie were understandably worried. Sure, the idea of giant monsters called kaiju battling against giant pilot-controlled robots sounds like it sells itself, but del Toro brought his signature style and passion for monsters and epic fantastical imagery to bring it to life in spectacular fashion.

Pacific Rim Uprising is certainly not a Guillermo del Toro movie, but it benefits from taking place in a world he created that’s rich with mythology. Thankfully, Steven S. DeKnight, along with co-writers Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder and T.S. Nowlin, jumps into this sandbox with an engaging expansion of that mythology, advancements of the wild sci-fi concepts introduced in the first movie, some scrappy new characters, and tremendous action sequences that surpass the thrills and excitement of the first film’s monstrous battles.

Pacific Rim Uprising

Pacific Rim Aftermath

Pacific Rim Uprising begins by setting the stage for the world we’re returning to. It’s been 10 years since the events of the first movie. The kaiju haven’t returned since then, but that hasn’t stopped the Pan Pacific Defense Corps (PPDC) from being prepared for when they eventually do.

There are more advanced Jaegers equipped with stronger, higher-tech weapons. Some citizens have even taken to tracking down older Jaeger technology to build their own custom Jaegers, and with no kaiju to fight, that leaves the advanced Jaegers to police junkyards and abandoned cities left destroyed by previous battles. However, Jaeger pilots are facing a crisis of their own as the company Shao Industries is trying to create an army of remotely controlled drones to handle the possible return of the kaiju.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world has moved on from monsters. Jake Pentecost (John Boyega) in particular seems to be living a life like some kind of makeshift sci-fi Scarface. He’s not doing kilos of cocaine, but he’s partying poolside in a partially destroyed mansion next to the skeleton of a dead kauji, dancing the night away, shaking off hangovers during the day. He’s financing his wild days by selling scrapped Jaeger tech to shady individuals on the black market.

Honestly, I could have watched an entire series unfold in a world like this. It’s not a post-apocalyptic world since the rest of the globe has far more advanced technology with their own Jaegers fully prepared to take on kaiju. But it’s one that is unquestionably changed by the destruction brought by the last kaiju attack.

The world in Pacific Rim Uprising is certainly a departure from that of Pacific Rim. Some negative reviews have touted that it lacks the flair of Guillermo del Toro’s rich world building. However, I think the film properly evolves the world because of how the things change after not having to worry about these kaiju attacks for 10 years. It’s not unlike the kind of world we see in Independence Day: Resurgence, which doesn’t sound like a favorable comparison, but this world makes far more sense and has significantly more style. This is Top Gun meets Pacific Rim in a bright, globally patriotic post-9/11 world where we’ve grown too complacent with our victory. Defense is more about business than survival. Jaegers look sleek and cool and come equipped with the latest weaponry, but they’re still outmatched by their enemy.

Pacific Rim Uprising

A New Surrogate Brother and Sister

I’ll be the first to admit that not all the characters work in Pacific Rim Uprising. Specifically, Scott Eastwood is the least charismatic mannequin in a warehouse full of mannequins, and the love triangle that is half-heartedly attempted between his character Nate Lambert, Adria Arjona‘s character Jules Reyes and John Boyega’s Jake Pentecost is a complete dud both romantically and comedically.

But at the same time, Jake Pentecost does have a relationship that works wonderfully, and that’s as a surrogate brother to a feisty scrapper named Amara Namani (played by Cailee Spaeny). Their two paths cross when Amara steals a Jaeger power core that Jake was trying to sell to some shady customers. When Jake ends up stumbling upon Amara’s tiny, stocky custom Jaeger, appropriately named Scrapper, he ends up being chased by the PPDC, but sees how well Amara handles herself as a pilot, not to mention showing innovation with her little Jaeger by giving it some Sonic the Hedgehog-style rolling capabilities to evade the larger, advanced Jaegers.

John Boyega and Cailee Spaeny have outstanding chemistry in this movie. The fast-talking back and forth these two have when they’re at odds upon first meeting is just the beginning of a delightful brother/sister dynamic. Eventually, Jake becomes the brotherly mentor that Amara needs as she struggles with coming to terms with her tragic past (her family was killed in front of her eyes in a kaiju attack), leading her to have a little trouble with authority. But as Jake himself shows, that’s exactly what helps her stay strong and makes her one of the best cadets. This dynamic also helps keep an emotional core between characters after Pentecost’s adoptive sister Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) meets her demise.

Furthermore, what I like about the introduction of Amara is how she fits into the expansion of the world’s mythology, but will also likely serve to expand upon how the PPDC will proceed when they take their fight to the kaiju instead of waiting for them to come back to Earth yet again. Her custom Jaeger Scarpper shows potential for a team of giant Jaegers and little, more versatile Jaegers that can more effectively battle the kaiju in more ways than just matching their size and strength.

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