‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ fun to watch, relevant for today

Charles Rankin

When “Pacific Rim” hit theaters in the summer of 2013, it became a breakout hit. Guillermo del Toro’s science-fiction action film about giant, human-controlled mega-machines fighting Godzilla-esque monsters from another dimension was the true definition of a “popcorn movie.” It is full of fun, outlandish action and is visually stunning, but features a sub-par story and lacks breathtaking acting or dialogue. Its sequel, “Pacific Rim Uprising,” directed this time around by newcomer Steven S. DeKnight, is no different.

Set ten years after the end of the first film, “Uprising,” tells the story of a new generation of humanity whose memory of the attacks from the Kaiju War is fresh, in a world that takes its security for granted.

Washed out from the Jaeger pilot cadet program, Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), son of fallen Kaiju War-hero Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), makes a living by selling stolen Jaeger parts and squatting in houses abandoned after Kaiju attacks destroyed cities in the Pacific Rim. After being arrested for piloting an unlicensed Jaeger along with its builder and highly skilled mechanic Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny), Pentecost is given the option of avoiding prison by returning to the cadet corps as an instructor to the new, younger cadets. Pentecost chooses the corps.

When a new but familiar threat emerges, Pentecost and the rest of the corps, including fellow instructor and former Jaeger co-pilot Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood), jump into action to try and save the world.

Like its predecessor, “Pacific Rim Uprising” is visually stunning. Its CGI effects work well against the backdrop of the Pacific Rim. There are a handful of Jaeger-on-Jaeger and Jaeger on Kaiju fight sequences that will blow anyone away if seen on a big screen. Much like the first film, there are dozens of instances of well-executed special effects in details, like hologram screens and maps.

The film struggles in some of the same areas as the original. The acting and dialogue are pretty mediocre, the story is a bit disjointed and there are several predictable turns in the plot. The film uses humor in a variety of ways, but even the comedy chops of actor Charlie Day, reprising his role as Dr. Newt Geiszler, cannot make up for the sometimes painful dialogue.

The biggest surprise of “Pacific Rim Uprising,” however, is its well-thought-out themes relating directly to real-life issues. It tells a great story about a group of teenagers and young adults coming together, despite differences, to fight against a cause affecting all of them. This release comes on the same weekend when, in the real world, hundreds of thousands of students across the nation are doing the same thing. The film also tells the story of two different people coming to grips with the loss of family members to war. The release of the film could not be more timely, and its comparison to current events only improves the quality.

“Pacific Rim Uprising” is far from the best film even so far in 2018, but is it the worst film of the year? Absolutely not. While it suffers from many of the same problems as the original, it’s fun to watch and full of action, featuring themes extremely relevant to today’s society and special effects that dazzle on the big screen. All in all, it’s great entertainment.

3.5/5 stars