Sometimes a movie just knowing what kind of movie it is can be a refreshing experience. We’re inundated with sequels for would-be franchises and they place all of their chips into the mythology, building a fantasy world that the creators demand be taken with the utmost seriousness. That wasn’t a problem for Pacific Rim: Uprising, director Steven S. de Knight’s sequel to Guillermo Del Toro’s monsters vs. robots movie. Pacific Rim: Uprising is a big goofy movie that knows it’s a big goofy movie, and it’s that sense of its own identity that makes the film so much damn fun. Now the sequel to a film that wasn’t quite a smash hit in America lands on Blu-ray in all of its Jaeger vs. Kaiju glory.
Uprising starts out much like the first film, with a helpful rundown of the events leading up to where we start. The end of Pacific Rim led to the closing of the breach, an rift beneath the Pacific Ocean where giant monsters known as Kaiju sprung into our world and wreaked havoc. Man built giant robots known as Jaegers to battle these massive beasts from beyond. Stocker Pentecost (Idris Elba, who doesn’t return for the sequel) sacrificed himself and closed the breach, ending the war. Since then, there’s been no attack by the Kaiju.
Years later, his son Jake (John Boyega) lives on the ruined shores of Santa Monica, partying and scavenging to survive. This setup plays out in a lively and comical fashion, illustrating the looting that Jake does and the ridiculous bounty he seeks, such as trading a car for a case of Sriracha hot sauce. It establishes Jake as a man of a hero’s pedigree but has shunned that life in order to party, presenting a clear arc for the character to follow in the action that will soon ensue.
While trying to steal some old Jaeger parts, Jake encounters Amara (Cailee Spaeny), a young woman who has built her own tiny Jaeger, and he’s soon pulled back into the world of the Pan Pacific Defense Corps, the military division tasked with battling the Kaiju. Arrested, Jake and Amara have no choice but to join the Jaeger program, something that Jake had already left behind but his adopted sister Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) won’t let him leave it fully behind. There Amara enters into a training program of young cadets and Jake is reunited with his old partner Nate (Scott Eastwood), and the two have some unsettled bad blood. When a mysterious Jaeger known as Obsidian Fury attacks a ceremony in Sydney, Australia, the Jaeger pilots must dust off their old giant war machines and take on a whole new battle in the war between man and monster.
Meanwhile, Liwen Shao (Tian Jing) is using her vast corporate might to push for all Jaegers to become drones, something that is being overseen by Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day). The fan favorite from the first film is also reunited with his fellow scientist Dr. Herman Gottlieb (Burn Gorman), though Gottlieb is now in the position of outcast that Geiszler once possessed. There’s a cloud of uncertainty hanging over Shao and her plans for an army of drone Jaegers.
There is a certain level of needless complexity to the screenplay by DeKnight, Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, and T.S. Nowlin, but DeKnight makes sure that the film moves at such a furious pace that none of it matters much. After reestablishing the premise behind the world of Pacific Rim, the sequel sets up its characters with very little depth because Steven S. DeKnight knows what you’re watching Uprising for – giant robots battling giant monsters. Once the formalities are out of the way, Pacific Rim: Uprising delivers the action in spades. It all is building up towards the film’s epic climax where a team of young Jaegers hit to the streets of Tokyo to battle three giant Kaiju with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. Sure, it’s pretty hokey and predictable at times, but it provides plenty of rock ‘em, sock ‘em moments that are the reason you’re watching the film in the first place.
On the Blu-ray for Pacific Rim: Uprising there’s no skimping on the special features. Steven S. DeKnight provides audio commentary, of course, but what’s most impressive are the number of featurettes jam packed onto the disc. There are featurettes about the individual Jaegers and individual characters, highlighting the amount of effort that went into this wildly absurd and entertaining world. There are featurettes that explore the production of the film, and the unique task of making this a truly international production (the first Pacific Rim’s success in China was a major factor in getting the sequel greenlit). Finally, there are a handful of deleted scenes complete with unfinished special effects. Each deleted scene doesn’t really alter the fabric of the film, so you can see why they were cut; though Adria Arjona’s underwritten Reyes gets the short end of the stick with cut screentime.
Pacific Rim: Uprising is a big dumb movie that provides some big dumb fun. It’s a movie so comfortable being a big budget B-movie smash ‘em up that it just moves forward with rocket-powered momentum. There’s not an ounce of pretension in Pacific Rim: Uprising, and combined with the fun performance by John Boyega (who further confirms he is a legit movie star) it makes for an absurdly entertaining good time. Sometimes a movie is nothing more than ridiculous entertainment, and my goodness, Pacific Rim: Uprising is ridiculously entertaining.