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PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING gets 6/10 Tokyo neural drift

Directed by Steven S. DeKnight
Starring John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Caliee Spaeny

6/10

Well, the apocalypse is back on.

After being cancelled by Stacker Pentecost’s (Idris Elba) heroic speech and noble sacrifice in the first Pacific Rim, the world has known a period of peace from the Kaiju attacks that has allowed it to rebuild. Unwilling to live in the shadow of his father, Jake Pentecost (John Boyega) has made his living on the margins of society, salvaging giant robot parts for an illegal Jaegar trade. But when he meets up with an orphan scrap mechanic (Caliee Spaeny) that has built her own Jaegar, he runs afoul of the military. Both are left with either a choice of jail, or to join the rebuilding Pan Pacific Defense Corps. This brings Jake back to his former life as a Jaegar pilot, and back to butting heads with his old drift compatible co-pilot Ranger Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood). However, as the world works out how to keep itself defended from the possible return of the fierce Kaiju and their alien masters, an unknown Jaegar appears ready to reap havoc, and challenge the forces of the PPDC.

All of which is a convoluted way of getting to the main event – there are giant robots, and giant monsters, and they hit each other… a lot.

There’s no surprise that this is a big dumb robot film, there is a little shock at the extent of that dumbness. The original Pacific Rim was horror auter Guillermo del Toro gleefully slumming it, whereas this is helmed by Steven S. DeKnight, who made his bones writing and producing for Buffy, Angel, Smallville, Daredevil and Spartacus, and is pretty much in his element. Pacific Rim was far from an intellectual thought piece, but by comparison it is 2001: A Space Odyssey pitted against Roger Corman’s Battle Beyond The Stars.

Pacific Rim: Uprising knows this, and joyfully carries on doing what it does. The script sacrifices any attempt at character or plot development, in favour of speed and to pander for some of its international audiences (especially China and Japan, where the original did well). As a result the script comes across similar to every second spin off series of a popular mecha anime ever, hitting many of the cliched plot points and character notes along the way. What is genuinely surprising is how little this effects how enjoyable Pacific Rim: Uprising is as a film. It’s a beer and pizza movie, and if you sit back, relax and put your brain into neutral – there’s a lot of pulp fun to be had from this schlockfest.

John Boyega and Scott Eastwood are great in this regard, playing off the chalk and cheese chemistry of their characters. Boyega just hams it up in an attempt to be a lovable rouge, where Eastwood just channels his father from Heartbreak Ridge. Neither are doing sterling work, but in the context of the film it works fine. Relative newcomer Caliee Spaeny is serviceable as the orphan scrap mechanic turned Jaegar pilot, and leads the charge with the younger cadets as they learn to pilot the giant robots.

Bigger, brighter, bolder, and relatively brainless Pacific Rim: Uprising is a film probably worthy of critical derision, but as it is so unashamedly gleeful about what it is, and so unpretentious about delivering giant robot versus rubber monster mayhem to the screen it somehow skates by. Is it a good film? No!! But by the Allspark it is a lot of fun.

DAVID O’CONNELL

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