Pacific Rim: Uprising walks an interesting tight-rope. It’s a sequel to a movie that never really felt like it needed one. Of course, a movie world saved from danger always has the potential to return to that state, however the way the first film raps up made it feel quite finite. What’s interesting about the concept, though, is that it’s (mostly)(kind of) an original idea that isn’t working off of the source material of a book or comic, much unlike everything else these days. That allows much more for narrative control and new ideas that you otherwise wouldn’t get to see in a remake or adaptation.
First things first, the pacing of the film is breakneck. Dialogue and plot points are zipped through so that we can move closer to the next action scene. This formula can work, especially in action films that aren’t narrative driven and rely on the action-heavy set pieces to keep people drawn in. However, one of the appeals to Pacific Rim as a whole, in my opinion, is the universe Del Toro created. Considering you’ve got the first film as a baseline introduction to the way things are, using some time to exploring and expanding more on the world you’ve created wouldn’t go amiss. This would be more forgivable if there was more action, but the movie only runs at an hour and 50 minutes long, and there’s only four action-heavy set pieces that involve Jaegers and/or Kaiju. People wouldn’t mind an extra half hour or so of dialogue and world building if it’s written and executed well.
However, it would have to be executed well, and that felt a bit like Pacific Rim: Uprising’s Achilles heel. While the writing felt fine at times, at other points it was quite mediocre. When a movie is paced this quickly, your dialogue, exposition, and character interactions need to be air-tight, which unfortunately wasn’t always the case. Relationships that were made or established to have been built before have little genuine buildup, and there are some really bizarre characterization moments strewn among a (mostly) forgettable cast. John Boyega can only carry so much of a movie with his charisma and talent, and though his performance is great (as were Rinko Kikuchi and Cailee Spaeny) they can’t carry every bit of poor writing and forgettable character moment.
There are positives to be gleaned from Pacific Rim: Uprising, for sure. The action is excellent, exceeding the first, in my opinion. The effects are mostly great, and every scene with a giant robot is immaculately done. While the pacing and writing are problems, they aren’t the worst ones a film like this could have. Rather have a speedy romp than a slog through over-explanation and dialogue.
Ultimately, I couldn’t help feeling like there was a much better movie hidden somewhere in there. There were concepts that didn’t totally feel like they were fleshed out or worked very well, and worse still there were ideas that I thought of while watching that felt like they could’ve supported some of the existing ideas and added more depth. But, that aside, Pacific Rim: Uprising is incredibly fast-paced, lighthearted, and generally a fun romp. You can’t fault a movie for knowing what it is and not trying to be what it isn’t, even if it isn’t executed in a way that you feel is most effective. If you enjoyed the first, you’ll almost certainly like the second. There are enough tie-ins to make things fun without venturing into the realm of, “Remember that part from the first one when…”.
All-in-all, Pacific Rim: Uprising is a perfectly fine, easily watchable action film. Not much more you can ask for, really.