When Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim came out, I didn’t initially love it, but over the years the earnest joy with which del Toro embraced his concept and owned it won me over. While both Pacific Rim and Transformers feature giant robots, I honestly wouldn’t think to compare them, but Pacific Rim: Uprising reminded me of a Transformers sequel. Eye-rollingly dumb and awful enough to diminish your appreciation for the original source material, and assuming more sequels without the capacity to even succeed in one. This wasn’t just disappointing; this was the worst film I’ve seen in 2018 so far.
Every film is the product of the (mostly) sincere efforts of hundreds, if not thousands, of people, so I hate bashing films. I try to keep my bad reviews short, or hold my peace altogether, but if you love Pacific Rim and haven’t seen this yet: do not go. The only thing making it more bearable than a Transformers sequel was that it was about an hour shorter, and my connection to the source material isn’t a huge touchstone to my childhood. The story and dialogue are awful. What’s done to the returning characters tarnishes the first film, and the return of the kaijus is such a stupid plot development I was literally dumbfounded at how awful the idea they’re running with is.
The cast is a significant step down from the first film. John Boyega plays the son of Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) 10 years removed from the end of the war. Jake Pentecost will be the first to tell you he’s not his father, and Boyega is no Idris Elba. He can be charming and cool with good writing, but I doubt they spent as much on the script as the spent on two seconds of F/X. Are those F/X great? Absolutely. But in 2018, a blockbuster’s F/X SHOULD be flawless. If you want to get people into a movie theater, with all the other media options, you need to show them something on a big screen for which a small one wouldn’t do justice. The Jaegers (there is NO film in history that uses my last name more, and it’s a shame it has to be this steaming pile) look great. They also move and look a lot more like Transformers than the lumbering robotic/cyberpunk feel of the Jaegers in the original film. And, while the F/X look great, they do nothing to advance the craft or provide any particular “wow” moment.
Half of the score I’m giving Pacific Rim: Uprising is for those F/X and the other half is because it is kind of jazzy to hear your last name screamed when giant robots go running into battle. I can’t give it any more than a point for each of those things, though, when the rest of the film is just a waste of the audience’s time. How much difference does Guillermo del Toro make to a Pacific Rim film? If you really want to find out, you’ll find Uprising makes Pacific Rim look like the freaking Godfather. STAND DOWN, JAEGERS, STAND DOWN!