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Pacific Rim Uprising is the sequel to 2013’s surprise hit Pacific Rim, but it doesn’t quite capture the same lightning in a bottle.

Uprising picks up 10 years after its predecessor. Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), son of General Stacker Pentecost from the first film, is pulled back into the PPDC just as new threats from beyond the Breach rear their ugly heads.

Boyega is by far the movie’s strongest attribute. Between his acting ability and his natural charisma, he steals the show and makes for the better leading man between both Pacific Rim flicks. He’s funny, he’s charming, and you actually care about his well-being. There’s hope for this franchise yet if they decide to build it around him moving forward.

Pacific Rim Uprising

Outside of Boyega’s performance however, Uprising faces a whole host of problems. There’s its dialogue, stilted in both the way it’s written and the way it’s acted. Then there are its underdeveloped new characters, who give us no reason to care whether they live or die (including a quasi-love interest that’s shoehorned into the story and barely used). But, granted, these are somewhat forgivable sins for a “robots vs aliens” action movie. What’s NOT forgivable is the movie’s biggest problem: its pacing.

This story is 75% build-up. We spend an inordinate amount of time meeting characters and establishing a new world order before the main conflict is introduced to drive the plot forward. The first Pacific Rim managed to do both these things simultaneously. It had a simple but effective conflict: monsters come to Earth through Breach, giant robots have to fight monsters and close Breach. Uprising doesn’t show its cards until way late in the game, and then it feels like a mad dash to the end. Which is rough, because they’re good cards. If the script was structured differently, this could have been a very enjoyable time at the theater. And while the movie is never boring, it just feels unbalanced. Characters moments and emotional beats never have time to settle; the payoff is rushed and isn’t worth all the time you put into it.

However, if all you’re looking for are sick visual effects, then you’re in luck. The Jaegers are again badass to watch in action, and the effects team really ups their game on anything Kaiju-related. The filmmakers clearly attempt to top the last film with a “bigger is better” approach. It’s cliché in almost a funny way (one of the characters even literally says “bigger is better”), but what else do you expect in a movie that can only be described as “giant robots vs killer kaiju”?

Pacific Rim Uprising, but he can only do so much. You should be able to go to this movie and get lost in the nonsense. Instead, major pacing issues and terrible characters will leave you wondering “what the hell is going on?”