Sometimes you’ve just got to turn your brain off. Not while you’re driving or making important decisions, of course…but there are some movies that give us such an opportunity. Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018) is one of those films that you can let your mind drift into while you just sit back and watch giant robots piloted by some charismatic actors kick the crap out of each other or giant CG monsters. It was a lot of fun, and Boyega definitely bites into the role.
Pacific Rim: Uprising is dumb fun at the movies
Jake Pentecost (John Boyega) is living a simple life as a thief ten years after the Jaeger pilots sealed the breach stopping the Kaiju war. After a run-in with a young, self-taught Jaeger mechanic named Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny), the two find themselves in jail. Fortunately, Jake’s sister, Mako Mori (Rink Kikuchi), gives him a chance to come back to the fleet as a Ranger with Amara as a training cadet. Jake was never looking to be a hero, but finds himself in a position where he may just have to become one.
Cailee Spaeny deserves to be discussed first. She is a relative newcomer to the big screen, and she delivers a pretty impressive performance compared to what this film needs. Scott Eastwood plays Nate Lambert, who has a history with Pentecost that was apparently tense but isn’t really worth being too upset about for more than a few minutes. Eastwood gives the type of performance you’d expect from a mid-march Robot fighting movie: stand around and be pretty. However, Spaeny didn’t follow that school of thought, and plays her character with the conviction of a much bigger movie. She’s great, and really wins a drift-compatible audience over. Of course, the leading man was definitely on the same page as her.
Boyega is giving this movie everything he has, and I love him for it. Jake is a lovable character who is a little bit roguish and has a small chip on his shoulder. What’s probably more important though is that Boyega is having fun with a movie that is fun to watch. There is enough of Jake’s character to give us enough interest in his success. However, the movie takes a little time to set up the story and then just runs with the robots.
The action looks good, at least better than some of the Transformer movies that make far too much money – yes, I’m a fan of this film and generally not a fan of the Transformer franchise…I’m not sure exactly why but it’s probably got something to do with this film not feeling like a Michael Bay movie. There is a fight early with Amara’s small Jaeger named Scrapper, which only requires one pilot, that sets the tone for the movie early. She ends up taking on a full-size Jaeger in a robot version of cat and mouse. This scene also allows Boyega and Cailee to demonstrate their chemistry with their repartee as they seek to escape the police. It’s a fun scene that happens early, and offers a taste of the frequency that Jaegers will be deployed in this film.
Mako is not the only returning character in this sequel, though. Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Dr. Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) are back but in a different capacity. They aren’t working together this time around, as Newt is working with Liwen Shao (Tian Jing) who has created a fleet of Jaeger Drones that are looking to replace the current system. Don’t worry, this film doesn’t try to give commentary on Drone warfare in any real way. Eastwood does get to deliver a “you think they can do what we do…” kind of line, but it’s not really a focus of the story. That choice is actually a really good thing.
Some movies need to take a stance on hot-button topics and backdoor information to a general audience who don’t always watch the news. However, this film does not need to do that, and it doesn’t. It delivers exactly what it should: robots fighting monsters or other robots. There are probably a few plot holes, and there are far too many tropes. Yet, the visuals are good, the cast commits, and the film is a lot of fun. Pacific Rim: Uprising earns the Decent Watch rating with a little extra love from this moviegoer.