I am going to start by saying only this: I am going to eat some serious crow on this review. When I saw the trailer for this, I thought it looked like it was going to be a terrible sequel that tried to cram too much young adult stuff in to expand the audience. In fact, I started my Pacific Rim review stating this looked terrible. The movie-going public trashed this one too, so my expectations were clearly set to see something that was garbage. Turns out, Uprising blew away my expectations, and in some ways actually exceeds the original movie.
I’m getting ahead of myself though. To start out, we are introduced to Jake Pentecost (John Boyega). Total aside, it was Boyega weekend evidently. I just watched him as Finn in The Last Jedi too. Honestly, his character was wasted in The Last Jedi, but his performance in Uprising was very good by comparison. Anyway, in the original Pacific Rim, his father was Idris Elba’s character. So the lineage between films is definitely connected.
We are now ten years after the events of the first film and to recap that briefly, there were alien Kaiju (big monsters) being sent through rifts between their world and ours to attack our planet to colonize and take over. A group of Jaegers (big robots) and their pilots rose to the challenge and dumped a nuke off into the rift which stopped the invasion. So fast forward ten years and much of the damage has been repaired. There is a defense force established to fight the Kaiju should they return, but many people want their own protection and create their own Jaegers with stolen parts.
Boyega’s character is actually a washout from the defense program who goes around stealing Jaegar parts for sale on the black market. During the course of a theft, he comes across someone else stealing parts and follows her back to her hideout. Turns out, this teenager built her own Jaeger and needed a power supply. And of course, they were both followed by the defense forces who engage them and eventually capture them. The story builds from there with a remote-controlled Jaeger army of robots that will put the manned Jaegers out of service and, this turns into a bit of I, Robot when those go berserk.
I was pretty surprised at how this was set up as a young adult story but didn’t go the full young adult route many movies of that kind take. The kids in many young adult movies tend to end up being far superior to the adults or they have some intricate knowledge that adults simply don’t have, which is great for the kiddie audience to feel empowered, but the adults tend to dismiss movies like that as trash. At least I do anyway. I certainly don’t mind seeing kids prevail over hard circumstances, but the whole being superior to an older and wiser person loses me. Pleasantly though, I feel like the older and younger people in this story really worked well together. The adults were not some condescending trope, and the kids were not whiny and snot-nosed as you’d typically expect. The sense of “together we can triumph” was more the message than anyone being superior.
What about the story though? Personally, I think this continued the Pacific Rim saga in a pretty natural way. I don’t want to ruin anything, but there was a connection made in the original movie that was continued in this one with, what I found to be a pretty funny story point. That leads to something I wasn’t really expecting, but it all made a lot of sense though. I’m definitely a fan of whoever wrote this.
The thing I typically have an issue with is CGI, but once again some dollars were spent on making this good. Whoever rendered the first one must have been involved in this because it was most certainly not a cheap Syfy affair. In fact, after going through all the Godzilla movies, I would say this is spiritually a lot more in line with those than the original Pacific Rim. Maybe it is better stated that where that film did it’s own thing, Uprising revisits the Kaiju movies of old and gives us ample destruction of Tokyo.
The big, climactic battle rages on for quite a while amidst the streets of Tokyo. Buildings are torn down and flung like battering rams. Robots and Kaiju are smashed into them. Glass and concrete fly. Where the Godzilla series had guys in rubber suits battling over cardboard and plastic miniature cities, Uprising unleashes modern CGI in all its magnificent glory. For me, this is what I want out of new Godzilla entries. Shin Godzilla was a good start, but I would love to see a renaissance of the whole series made with this kind of quality. I would also include the recent Power Rangers movie for its quality CGI, and honestly, some of the Jaegers were a bit like the Power Ranger Zords.
Going off on a bit of a tangent, I speak highly of a few other movies and their CGI usage, but I leave out the Transformer movies of recent years which are pretty similar. The CGI for Transformers isn’t bad, but the movies behind them are horrible. You take something like these Pacific Rims or Shin Godzilla that combine a good story with good effects and you have my attention. Shiny graphics don’t make things fun though. So where one series is disappointing, another grabs my attention. Unfortunately, the boring one gets a ton of sequels and remains popular. I digress though.
I’m going to close this glowing review out by saying Pacific Rim: Uprising really caught me off guard with how good it is. Maybe I have low expectations, maybe bad taste, or maybe both, but I don’t care. I loved my time with these two movies and I would almost put Uprising just a tick above the first movie simply because of the giant battle in Tokyo. Grinding my way through the Godzilla series left me wanting a modern battle like that. Fortunately, the rest of this movie was decent as well so the big, climactic battle just tipped the scale even further. I’m scoring this one the same as I did the first entry, 4/5 stars.