When I watched the first Pacific Rim in the theater, I walked out with a feeling of whiplash. I wasn’t quite sure what I had watched, and I wasn’t quite sure if the insanity of it all was joyful or groan-inducing. After time (and a few more viewings), I came to fall on the side of joyful. It’s an unabashed ode to Kaiju movies; an ostentatious one-up of Japan’s decades long fascination with the genre. Godzilla is fine, but it’s way too bland for Hollywood, which is why most attempts at American Godzilla movies have failed pretty hard. Pacific Rim amped it up. So, needless to say, I was excited to watch the sequel.
Once again, I went into a movie this week under the heavy cloud of negative reviews. I don’t know if I’m just particularly optimistic these days, or if the negative reviews are properly setting my expectation level, but I liked Pacific Rim: Uprising. It’s not as good as its predecessor, lacking some of the more nuanced tactics employed by the more capable (Oscar Winning) Guillermo Del Toro, but Steven DeKnight doesn’t do a bad job. It’s a movie about giant robots punching giant monsters. DeKnight understands that the only way to make this catastrophe of an idea work is to turn it up to 11, break the knob off, connect a live wire to the amp, and then completely blow up the amp. Once this movie goes past 11, there’s no turning back and it’s an exciting and weird ride.
John Boyega is much more charismatic in his turn as the son of Stacker Pentecost (played by Idris Elba in the first one) than he is as Finn in the Star Wars movies. His natural accent is perfect for the part, fitting in well with the character’s backstory of abandoning Jaeger training to barely scratch by in the ruins of California. I loved the set pieces at the beginning of the film, with giant parties under the carcasses of Kaiju, and the necessities of life coming from scrapping abandoned Jaegers for parts. Some may find that the long lead up of the story is too devoid of action, but I enjoyed it for the world-building that it provided and the extended time getting to know the two main characters.
There are few returning characters in this one, but Charlie Day is the most notable. While I considered him annoying in the first film, I found him to be delectable in this one. He adds a lot to the movie, and I don’t think a lot of this insanity would work as well if not for his natural manic energy. Relative newcomer Cailee Spaeny is also enjoyable, playing the part of a street-urchin genius mechanic who naturally gets drafted into the Jaeger program… because why train Jaeger pilots, when you can just collect them from the streets, give them basically no training, and then have them fight the most fearsome Kaiju to have ever come to earth?
Most of the action is reserved for the second half of the film, but when it starts, it’s a never-ending thrill ride of self-evolving nuttiness. Every time you think you just saw the craziest thing you could imagine, something else happens to show you that your imagination is severely lacking. I applaud the filmmakers for not only having this level of creativity, but also for having the courage to put it up on screen, surely knowing that it could have crashed and burned so hard that their careers could have been on the line. I think it works, though. Preposterous movies are a treat unto themselves, and when they are done with such glee, it’s hard not to get swept up in the joy.
If you didn’t like the first Pacific Rim, then this movie isn’t for you. Otherwise, I recommend it. Just be prepared to suspend all disbelief, buckle your seatbelt, and become drift-compatible with the pathos of the movie. You’ll have a good time.