Pacific Rim: Uprising, the highly anticipated sequel to 2013’s Pacific Rim, hits cinemas around the world this week. Set 10 years after the events of the original movie, Uprising features an all-new cast, with only 3 familiar names returning from the original movie: Charlie Day and Burn Gorman return as Drs. Newt Gieszler and Hermann Gottlieb respectively, while Rinko Kikuchi reprises her role as Mako Mori. Pacific Rim: Uprising sees Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), son of war hero Stacker Pentecost, unwillingly thrust into conflict to save the world.
And that, dear readers, is exactly where all the similarities between the two movies end.
“But how is that possible?” you’re probably asking right now.
“They’re both called Pacific Rim and you just told us it’s a sequel. Surely they must be very well connected?”
To find out what happened, join me after the break in my *almost* spoiler-free take on why I believe Pacific Rim: Uprising should have been named “Giant Robots vs Aliens: A Generic Hollywood Blockbuster”. I’ve made sure to insert huge warnings right before the spoilers so you can skip those parts.
1. Uprising is very different from the original Pacific Rim – almost too different
Change is sometimes good, and oftentimes necessary to keep things fresh. Some franchises ditch their source material and have main characters break long-standing personal beliefs for the sake of making good movies – and it sometimes works.
Take the James Bond franchise for example: Daniel Craig’s rugged portrayal of 007 stands in stark contrast to era of Sean Connery and Roger Moore. It was a change that initially received resistance from fans, but was eventually deemed necessary for the franchise to stay relevant in the modern age.
Bringing the attention back to Pacific Rim, the original was an occasionally flawed, occasionally intelligent war thriller set in a deeply thought-out anime-inspired sci-fi universe. You felt the fear and confusion of the characters – even the extras whose only screen time was running in the streets and screaming while the Kaiju attacked.
Uprising, on the other hand, ended up as “Giant Robots vs Aliens: A Generic Hollywood Blockbuster”,conveniently taking place in the same universe as the original. I honestly felt like I was watching the horrible, unwanted bastard child of Transformers and 2017’s Power Rangers. The only thing missing was the Jaegers fusing together to form Megazord – sorry, a Super Jaeger to beat the big bad alien in the final, climactic fight. (Hollywood please don’t make this the plot of the 3rd movie).
Uprising wasn’t a war movie; there wasn’t enough tension throughout. There wasn’t a moment where you felt like the heroes were ever in danger of losing, unlike the first.
2. Uprising breaks many rules set in the original Pacific Rim
A huge part of “immersion” into a movie’s universe involves making things believable, or assigning logic to things that don’t occur in the real world. As such, directors & scriptwriters usually create a set of clear-cut “rules” within which all the characters in the movie’s universe follow. In the Terminator universe, time travel is only possible if the object/person is covered in living tissue – providing a “logical” explanation as to why the T-800 takes on the physical appearance of Arnold Schwarzenegger. In Gremlins, your cute little mogwai turns into an evil Gremlin if you expose it to bright light, get it wet, or feed it after midnight. In pretty much anything involving Michael Bay, everything explodes because reasons.
If Michael Bay directed Titanic.
The original Pacific Rim laid out rules for its universe that branched out from simple premises, one of which is: piloting a Jaeger is no joke, and must be taken very seriously.
In the original Pacific Rim, Jaegers are highly specialized Kaiju-killing machines developed as part of a global effort to save mankind. Countries from around the world send their greatest minds and soldiers to the Pan Pacific Defense Corps. Striker Eureka, the most powerful & modern Jaeger in the original movie, reportedly cost over 10 times more to build than a modern aircraft carrier. It’s also revealed that the neural strain from solo-piloting a Jaeger, regardless of size, would kill even the most highly-trained pilot, and that only two humans in recorded history had successfully solo-piloted a Jaeger without melting their brains: Stacker Pentecost and Raleigh Becket.
Uprising decides to promptly take a hot, steaming shit all over the rules set up in the original movie by [toggle title=’Click to show/hide spoiler’]having an untrained teenager(!) solo-pilot a Jaeger(!!) built by herself(!!!) completely undetected by authorities in a seemingly abandoned warehouse(!!!!) within the first 30 minutes of the movie – proceeding to write it it off as “the smaller the Jaeger, the smaller the neural load on the pilot”, meaning that her cute and blatant merchandise cash-grab mini-Jaeger named “Scrapper” wouldn’t melt her brain. [/toggle]
Another huge part of the original Pacific Rim is the “drift”, a process where the two Pilots’ minds are fused together, sharing memories and consciousness in perfect synchrony prior to the “neural handshake”, which links their combined minds to the Jaeger’s control system. The first movie makes a huge deal out of this process, treating it with an almost religious reverence every time it appears on screen. The first movie goes out of its way to show that pilots must be “drift-compatible” in order to pilot a Jaeger together, or the Jaeger will barely function. Uprising downplays the importance of the “drift compatibility” between pilots, and seemingly allows less-than-perfect compatible pilots to work together in a sort of compromise – they even flash a “connection stability” percentage on-screen at some point during the movie.
Another big rule established in the first Pacific Rim is that Kaiju blood is highly corrosive and detrimental to the environment. As such, the combat styles and weaponry of Jaegers in the original Pacific Rim focused on blunt-force as well as cauterization in a bid to minimize a dead Kaiju spilling its blood everywhere. Uprising decided to say “screw the environment”, and equipped all of its Jaegers with the coolest (and occasionally impractical) bladed weapons they could fine.
I could go on, but there’s more I need to talk about – and this covers some of the main rules that Uprising breaks within the Pacific Rim universe.
3. Uprising lacks its predecessor’s attention to detail
A huge part of this lack of attention to detail comes down to the designs of both the Jaegers and the Kaiju. Guillermo del Toro made it a point in the original Pacific Rim to give each Jaeger and Kaiju a distinct on-screen identity that made sense – especially the Jaegers.
The 4 Jaegers that appear in the original Pacific Rim each carry design cues that link them to their fictional country of origin. Gipsy Danger was designed like an American cowboy in robot form, walked with a swagger much akin to an American cowboy, and its paint job was homage to America WWII fighter planes. Cherno Alpha, in true Russian fashion, sacrificed speed for a heavy emphasis on armor and strength – allowing it to take heavy punishment from Kaiju while dealing a similarly large amount of damage in return. The Chinese Jaeger, Crimson Typhoon, fights and carries itself in a style similar to a trained martial artist.
The Jaegers of Uprising, despite their brighter color schemes and more unique weaponry, managed to be largely forgettable as they all lacked the attention to detail that their predecessors benefited from. Even their names aren’t memorable – I can only name one: Gipsy Avenger, and even then I only remember it because it’s named after the main Jaeger of the original movie. It’s the little things that add up to make watching a movie an immersive experience, and Uprising did quite badly in this department.
4. Uprising’s fight scenes are largely forgettable
The fight scenes, despite being far more acrobatic and choreographed, were largely forgettable – while occasionally defying both logic and the laws of physics. While the original Pacific Rim had “The Slice”, a visually stunning moment where Gipsy Danger uses its sword to kill the Kaiju Otachi in mid-air over Hong Kong, Uprising didn’t have a single moment that came anywhere close.
I remember lots of action happening throughout the movie – even more than the original movie. Uprising is a legitimately action-packed movie, but none of it particularly sticks out like “The Slice” or even carries tension of the first and last fights of the original Pacific Rim.
Only two fight scenes really stuck in my mind – and one of them for the wrong reasons. The first is when [toggle title=’Click to show/hide spoiler’] the Shao Industries drones go rogue and begin attacking PPDC centers around the globe, [/toggle]
some nameless Jaeger pilots sacrifice themselves to kill one of the two invaders.
The second scene, which I remember for the wrong reasons (and will address in my next point), is during the climactic fight.[toggle title=’Click to show/hide spoiler’]Alone and heavily outmatched after the Super Kaiju destroys all the other Jaegers, the pilots of Gipsy Avenger decide their best plan of action is to solder a booster rocket onto Gipsy’s hand, use it to launch themselves into space, and allow earth’s gravity to turn Gipsy Avenger into 2,000 ton gravity-powered battering ram. [/toggle]
This brings me to my next point:
5. Someone, somewhere, decided that the laws of physics don’t apply to Uprising
2013’s Pacific Rim was lauded for being as scientifically accurate as possible within the fictional context of “Giant Robots fighting Mutant Alien Invaders from another dimension”.
The Jaegers of 2013’s Pacific Rim had slow, calculated movements as to not destroy themselves while simply moving. The average weight of the Jaegers is around 2,000 tons while the Kaiju themselves usually weigh well over 2,000 tons, meaning that each blow during a Jaeger-Kaiju fight carries some serious weight.
Uprising, however, determined that the original Pacific Rim’s fight scenes were too slow or boring, and promptly decided to speed up all action by 20% to 100%, depending on scene. The previously lumbering giants of Jaeger and Kaiju would now sprint at full speed while alternating between diving, doing backflips, and body slamming each other into skyscrapers. The laws of physics pretty much dictate that, well, that’s not possible – at least for the Jaegers.
One of the Jaegers happens to have a whip that I swear has to be made of Vibranium, Adamantium, or some sort of Unobtanium, because in one of the fight scenes,
[toggle title=’Click to show/hide spoiler’] Whip-Jaeger wraps the whip around the arm of a Kaiju, but the Kaiju is strong enough to use momentum to sweep Whip-Jaeger off its feet and swing it around in circles a few times, smashing it through multiple buildings before letting it fly. They should’ve made all the Jaegers’ armor plating out of whatever the hell they used to made that whip. [/toggle]
And this brings me to the second “memorable fight scene” I mentioned in my previous point, the
[toggle title=’Click to show/hide spoiler’]2,000 ton gravity-powered battering ram.[/toggle]
There are just so many things wrong with this scene, from:
[toggle title=’Click to show/hide spoiler’]
- “How is Gipsy Avenger’s arm still attached to it’s body?
- The rocket soldered to its arm is one of the many booster rockets used to fly the Jaegers from China to Japan for the climactic battle. During their flight to Japan, the rockets are attached to the Jaegers’ backs, and sensors are constantly going off, warning the pilots “critical structural failure imminent”
- “How the hell are they still breathing?”
- The glass into the Jaeger’s control room is shattered and they just launched themselves really high in the sky, where there’s little to no oxygen
- “How have they not been incinerated yet?”
- The glass into the Jaeger’s control room is shattered. Gipsy Avenger is currently a 2,000 ton gravity-powered battering ram flying in from space, and its fists are burning up due to the heat from re-entry. Miraculously, both pilots are still alive while this happens.[/toggle]
6. Too many tense moments broken by untimely jokes. #ThanksMarvel
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has had a profound impact on Hollywood, becoming a multi-billion dollar movie franchise in a matter of years. Marvel movies have their own signature brand of humor, with characters often diffusing tense moments with spontaneous bursts of humor. Audiences everywhere loved it. I loved it.
Unfortunately, Hollywood took this as a sign to ensure that every single movie contains Marvel-style humor breaks to diffuse tension. While the original Pacific Rim avoided this, confronting the tension head-on and even amping it up occasionally, Uprising unfortunately joined the ranks of big-budget productions who unnecessarily inserted Marvel-style humor breaks throughout the movie. It’s a dangerous trend for Hollywood when even Star Wars: The Last Jedi fell victim to it.
If this movie was called “Giant Robots vs Aliens: A Generic Hollywood Blockbuster”, I would’ve given it a 6/10 or 6.5/10.
However, it’s called Pacific Rim: Uprising, and it’s a horrible Pacific Rim movie. Despite it being a half-decent, “fun for the family” kind of Hollywood Blockbuster, I have to give Pacific Rim: Uprising a 2.5/10 because it’s a bad Pacific Rim movie and it failed to live up to the promise of its predecessor.
“Giant Robots vs Aliens: A Generic Hollywood Blockbuster”