Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro has helmed some marvellous films.
From ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ to ‘The Shape Of Water’, his films are dark fairy tales filled with lurking creatures. Of all the strange films he’s made, an outlier is ‘Pacific Rim’ – a blockbuster featuring robots fighting giant monsters. Set ten years later, the robots and monsters – aka, Jaegers and kaiju, respectively – return in the sequel ‘Pacific Rim Uprising’, where Steven S DeKnight takes over as Director.
Taking the lead from an absent Charlie Hunnam is John Boyega as Jake Pentecost, the son of Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentecost. The actor made a big impression with his role as Finn in the latest ‘Star Wars’ trilogy, and ‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ further proves his star potential. From his first appearance hustling Jaeger parts in devastated Miami, Jake is wily, funny, and charismatic. From there, Jake provides a lot of comic relief through his reluctant return to the Pan Pacific Defence Corps, and exudes intensity during battles.
John is the highlight of every scene he’s in, but it’s not hard with characters as flat as some. Scott Eastwood as Jake’s co-pilot and rival Nate Lambert only contributes the growl he inherited from his father, Clint, with John’s magnetism drawing some semblance of a performance from him.
Newcomer Cailee Spaeny holds her own as the stubborn Amara, sharing great chemistry with John whether they’re arguing or working together. Unfortunately, after such a great introduction, she’s lumped into ‘Top Gun’-inspired storyline attempting to introduce a new generation of pilots. There’s a lot of potential in this part, but it comes across as forced and underdeveloped.
Much like the original, the Jaegers are the biggest stars, and fight scenes between them and kaijus are better than before. Instead of fights taking place during dark, stormy nights, ‘Uprising’ brings them into the daylight, offering audiences a chance to see the creatures in all of their glory. Fight scenes are captured brilliantly and rely on wide shots, giving a clearer view of the fighters and the destruction they cause. It’s incredibly detailed to the point during a destructive battle in Tokyo (an obvious ‘Godzilla’ homage) innocent bystanders are seen being hurled into the air from the crumbling streets.
‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ may fumble, but it improves massively on the original by attempting new things with its story and settings. Most importantly, thanks to John Boyega’s boyish enthusiasm and Steven S DeKnight’s direction of the fights, it remembers just how fun giant-fighting-monsters-and-robots films are meant to be.