Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Gigantic fighting robots are back in "Pacific Rim: Uprising" first time director Steven S. DeKnight's follow up to the 2013 international hit. If the last one was any indication, a sequel was all but likely, and while the first "Pacific Rim" wasn't anything to laud over, it had a fun wink-wink novelty that made the premise, about skyscraper tall monsters called Kaiju attacking our planet, seem old fashion. There was the introduction of pilots and how they would "drift" with each other (which meant they had a strong enough telepathic connection to dual control a fighting robot dubbed Jaegers.) And of course the monsters themselves seemed like they walked out of an old Japanese cartoon into the real world.
In "Uprising" ten years has past since the events of the first movie. The film opens like a "previously on" tag from an episode of your favorite television series, a clear indicator the filmmakers believed that hardly anyone saw "Pacific Rim" and are trying to appeal to a mass global audience. Anyhow, Jon Boyega (Finn from the last two "Star Wars" flicks) is Jake Pentecost, son to the fallen Commander Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) from "Pacific Rim." It always has to be someone's son to keep franchises going right?
Except Jake isn't following in his father's footsteps, he's a petty street hustler, trying to turn a profit out of the chaos which ensued in the previous years. Selling off Jaeger technology in the slums, until it catches up with him, and he collides with a fellow street rat named Amara (Cailee Spaeny in a spunky, but forgettable performance). The two spark an immediate quarrel about how to handle an ensuing battle, which eventually lands them in jail, and to avoid sentencing, Jake has to do community service: training cadets on the vast expanding Jaeger technology.
He's paired with an old partner (they always are) in the form of Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood looking the same he does in every movie) a tough as crass big muscled instructor that likes to push his students to the limits. Boyega and Eastwood really don't have any chemistry in these early scenes, with the former trying to infuse witty one liners religiously that never stick, and the latter squinting every time he drops a line. Also the Cadet recruits are boring. Think "X-Men First Class" without any of the fun.
Once all the mindless and painful exposition gets out of the way (yes Charlie Day's eccentric Dr. Newton Geiszler makes a return) we find out that Earth, yet again, is facing a major threat from the Kaiju species (an early sequence with a rogue Jaeger goes on for, what feels like, seven years.) All the references from the first movie aside, "Uprising" biggest mistake is its failure to make us care about any of the characters. In movies like this, generally not everyone will make it to the end, but those that tragically perish in battle are so underdeveloped, it's like the movie forgot they existed.
Boyega walks around with charisma and leadership not seen in his recent films, but the film never gets on his badass level. Let's just say, there's lots of screaming and clichés that come straight outta the "down-on-your-luck-underdog-handbook." Even though some of the tender moments between Jake and Amara feel earned, they're followed by a stupid joke that just make you groan.
By the time we find out the true identity of the villain, I just gave up altogether, it might be the dumbest plot twist of the year. "Uprising" is a slug fest from start to finish, with second rate action sequences that make any "Transformer" sequel look like an Academy Award winner. But the most nauseating aspect of this entire movie is the notion that a third "Pacific RIm" could be on the way in the near future.
Rated: PG13 for sequences of sci-fi violence, action and some lanaguge
Runtime: 1 hr. and 50 minutes