Saturday 24 March 2018

Film Review: Pacific Rim - Uprising

Ready for round two? Those rock'em sock'em robots are squaring off with giant monsters once again in Pacific Rim: Uprising.

With newly-minted Best Director Guillermo del Toro off filming fish sex with Sally Hawkins and a merman, the Pacific Rim franchise has been farmed out from Warner Brothers to Universal and lead actor Charlie Hunnam has been subbed out for everyone's favourite London geezer cum stormtrooper, John Boyega.

In fact, very little of the original Pacific Rim has been retained in this sequel; a fresh cast is one thing but a wholly different tone, one which is less grounded and more cartoonish, has been established as well, with incoming director Steven DeKnight (Marvel's Daredevil) dialling up the colour and swapping del Toro's trademark lived-in detailing for flashy visuals and a whizzbang Apple store aesthetic.

This might come as a disappointment for some, especially those who felt del Toro's 2013 original struck an effective balance between auteurist homage to Japanese kaiju cinema and Saturday morning Power Rangers sugar rush. Uprising leans more towards the latter than the former, and definitely feels like a studio pouring money into a vessel it feels will sell heaps of plastic action figures and lock in at least another two or three films later down the track.

That's where the film is going narratively as well; Uprising is set 10 years after the events of Pacific Rim and sees Boyega's renegade Jake Pentecost, son of Idris Elba's Stacker, reunited with his old Jaeger unit when evil once again rears its ugly head in the form of even larger sea monsters and even a couple of of rogue robots for good measure. Uprising introduces swathes of new characters that it desperately wants you to latch onto now and into the future, from Boyega's boyish hero to Scott Eastwood's brooding co-pilot Nate and Cailee Spaeny as plucky scrapper Amara.

A team of bickering junior pilots are also along for the ride, giving the film something of a David versus Goliath element, especially in its third act. Of the new additions, it's only Boyega and Spaeny that stick in the memory, thanks in part to some fun banter and onscreen chemistry. The rest of the cast is largely forgettable, a feeling which projects across the plot and the film as a whole to be brutally honest.

While I found myself along for the ride in the heat of the moment, Pacific Rim: Uprising doesn't have the same staying power as the first film. It's a whole lot of colour and noise with very little payoff, and while the action is undoubtedly fun and satisfying in a building-smashing, sword-clashing, skull-stomping kind of way, it lacks the same emotional punch as del Toro's first film.

The Verdict: 5.5/10

Bright and brash but low on nutritional value, Pacific Rim: Uprising bears all the telltale signs of a studio with dollar signs in its eyes. Unfortunately, it doesn't thrill or excite often enough to ensure audiences to forget that.

Pacific Rim: Uprising is in cinemas across Australia now.

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