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Pacific Rim: Uprising - Review

Pacific Rim: Uprising

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

IF GUILLERMO del Toro’s Pacific Rim turned out to be one of the most disappointing blockbusters of 2013, then Steven S. DeKnight’s belated follow-up has to qualify as that rare cinematic anomaly: a sequel that betters the original.

Co-produced by del Toro and leading man John Boyega (aka Finn from the new Star Wars movies), the film does what it says on the label – robots smashing monsters – but it does so with considerable visual panache and a grand-standing central performance from Boyega himself.

If that doesn’t equate to much more than disposable popcorn fun, then perhaps that’s no bad thing given how well it delivers on the mayhem… because let’s face it, no one wants another bloated robot movie in the style of the last two Transformers movies.

Set 10 years after the end of the Kaiju War, Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), son of the late hero Stacker (Idris Elba), is a former Jaeger pilot now making a living selling stolen tech and very much living in his father’s shadow.

But when his latest arrest lands him back in the Jaegar pilot programme under the joint command of Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) and former co-pilot Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood), together with young scavenger Amara (Cailee Spaeny), he must find a way to battle past his demons in order to be ready to face a new threat from both a rogue Jaegar and the possibly returning Kaiju monsters.

Pacific Rim: Uprising actually marks something of a labour of love for Boyega, who invested part of his Star Wars money into producing this latest instalment, in the hope of possibly kick-starting a new franchise.

Yet while the appeal of a faltering sci-fi series might not be that obvious to anyone who saw and lamented the shortcomings of Pacific Rim, Boyega seems to have identified some of what went wrong (too many night battles, too much Charlie Day, an overly bland leading man in Charlie Hunnam, etc) and worked hard to try and correct it.

Pacific Rim: Uprising

Hence, Uprising benefits from plenty of daylight action and a central character, in Jake, that oozes charisma and easy screen appeal. Boyega is a confident leading man: brash, cocksure and funny; yet capable of delivering rage and insecurity during the one or two big acting moments the screenplay allows. He’s a hugely endearing presence to be around.

Eastwood, for his part, seems content to channel his dad and could even be nodding to his ‘Gunny’ in Heartbreak Ridge given the gruff qualities of his engaging performance, while Spaeny makes for a suitably plucky, kick-ass heroine.

Yes, Charlie Day is back but his screen-time is limited (and it’s a good decision to make him more shady), while co-nerd Rob Kazinsky is also reigned in somewhat from previously.

Knight instead places most of the film’s emphasis on the action set pieces, which deliver all the eye-candy carnage you’d expect from a movie that finds its central premise built around robots fighting each other and monsters.

Buildings get levelled with increasing regularity, there’s kick-ass weaponry flying from every metal orifice, and the visuals are so well executed that you can actually see what’s going on. And most of the carnage is genuinely spectacular, particularly an early rumble in Sydney, Australia, that manages to throw audiences a bit of a loop, and a climactic tussle in Japan, in the shadow of Mount Fuji.

Pacific Rim: Uprising is a film that’s fully aware of its limitations but one that’s happy to work within the confines of them and even utilise them to its strengths. As a result, it’s a much more enjoyable ride than anyone might dared to have hoped. Boyega can be proud, even if a franchise still seems like a stretch.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 1hr 51mins
UK Release Date: March 23, 2018