In 2013, director Guillermo del Toro, who by that point had firmly established himself as worthy of the "visionary" label that continues to define his career, brought audiences Pacific Rim, a glorified Saturday morning cartoon that produced many a smile on filmgoers the world over and a peek into a transdimensional war between Godzilla-esque monsters called Kaiju and the human-piloted, similarly-sized robots known as Jaegers. Though possessing a shaky story which attempted to hold the film together, Pacific Rim ultimately merely existed as an excuse to see robot-on-monster battles with near-complete ignorance of the human cast-as a cocky Jaeger pilot with an emotional past, Charlie Hunnam is simply terrible, though Idris Elba's role as the man overseeing the Jaeger program gives him a chance to showcase how excellent he is in roughly every role he plays, as well as a nice rousing speech in the third act possessing more than a few shades of Independence Day. Even del Toro favorite Ron Pearlman's performance as a black market Kaiju parts dealer is amusing, while Ramin Djawadi's guitar-driven score amps up the intensity with every action-packed setpiece that, again, truly are the primary reason to take in Pacific Rim.
Five years later, a sequel has materialized in the form of Pacific Rim: Uprising, and debut director Steven S. DeKnight, who previously acted as showrunner on the first season of Daredevil and who also co-wrote Uprising, has succeeded in producing a film that seamlessly strips away any magic that existed in its predecessor while turning up a knob labeled Poor Quality to the point where it completely shatters off the console.
Picking out the good in Pacific Rim: Uprising is a near-impossible task, so I'll start with the bad and work my way from there. John Boyega takes over for either Elba or Hunnam as the son of Elba's character, who's been living a transient life until fate pulls him back into the Jaeger program in which he was previously a legendary pilot, with Scott Eastwood as his former co-pilot who holds some sort of grudge against him. Rinko Kikuchi returns from the original as Boyega's adopted sister Mako, along with Charlie Day and Burn Gorman as the two oh-so-wacky Kaiju researchers with the oil-and-water personalities signature of any other comedic duo throughout entertainment history.
The plot of Uprising, much like its predecessor, consists of a number of lazy interwoven sideplots, all of which feel rushed and woefully underdeveloped, with the intent seemingly existing as being able to have several of the characters say the words "Pacific Rim" a few times, a groan-inducing wink to the camera that never was needed in the first place. The Kaiju never feel epic in size, nor do the Jaegers, which make the few flashbacks to Pacific Rim honestly feel refreshing-whereas the original gave the film an attention-grabbing dark tone usually setting the action at night on the rain-drenched streets of Hong Kong, Uprising is the complete opposite, bring the giants into the daylight and flawlessly turning the film into a lesser Transformers entry if ever there was one. It's like any episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, or cut scenes from last year's Power Rangers theatrical outing slapped together in a careless manner to suggest that an unqualified intern was turned loose in the editing booth.
Charlie Day is somewhat chuckleworthy, I suppose, though Burn Gorman's shtick gets old as his character gets more lines in Uprising and his exaggerated mannerisms become unintentionally humorous the more the film drags along. Boyega allows his natural English accent to do the heavy lifting, bringing little else to the table, while Scott Eastwood couldn't have done a worse job if he tried. With line delivery that reeks of amateur hour at your local village playhouse and his only tool of looking confused most of the time used to the farthest extent, Eastwood continues to remind us all why he never should have followed his dad into the family business. Jing Tian also rounds out the disappointing cast as the cliché corporate baddie-the head of a company that plans on converting the pilot-driven Jaegers into drones so as to ensure pilot safety and maximum damage inflicted upon the enemy. In this role, she's just there, simply another person saying lines in a manner probably meant to come off as threatening but instead sounds like someone just saying things. There's also no big speeches that live up to Elba's words about cancelling the apocalypse in Pacific Rim, through both Gorman and Boyega try their best. It does not work.
What's extremely odd is that, not only does Uprising steal numerous beats from the original, but it peculiarly feels like a strange remake of 2016's Independence Day sequel Independence Day: Resurgence, from the clash between the main characters to the attempts at a memorable monologue all the way to the final scene, even down to the similar-sounding title. Lorne Balfe's work on the score sounds goofy, possibly even too upbeat at times, and also finds itself buried too deep in the mix-it's nothing like the first film, although the original theme does show up once, far too late. Even the weapons unleashed by the Jaegers, which were used sparingly in the original for maximum effect, are doubled down time and time again to the point where every plasma cannon or sword attachment elicit yawns as opposed to awe.
Del Toro also helped produce Pacific Rim: Uprising along with Boyega, and I can't help but wonder if either would prefer to distance themselves from this ridiculous creation, with the former fresh off his Oscar wins and Boyega's involvement in the Star Wars universe-the cast, music, scattershot plot(s) and visual effects that don't even try to build off what the original established all make up the recipe for a movie that should never have been attempted. If the only purpose it serves is as filler until the next offering from Marvel or Disney, even that's a waste of space. In many ways, it does make one take pause and look at the original with different eyes-was Pacific Rim ever necessary in the first place?