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Rimmed Out

There are worse sequels than Pacific Rim: Uprising. Consider the dubious Jaws: The Revenge or that Electric Boogaloo thing. Lesser sequels will always be a competitive category.

But Pacific Rim: Uprising comes close to the bottom. Maybe like Independence Day: Resurgence levels of putrid. It’s as if anyone involved in making this movie didn’t understand that Pacific Rim wasn’t cool because of the robots. It was cool because the robots fought monsters.

That happens here. Robots do indeed go into a full-on charge against a trio of monsters. If you know Japanese tokusatsu TV show Ultraman, you’ve seen this. The robots team up against insurmountable monster odds and heroes do stuff that only a drunken weekend of screen writing can concoct. There’s no way this was written sober.

One of the common complaints of the first Pacific Rim concerned the cloak of darkness around the film. Those complaints were wrong – Pacific Rim oozed style and glamour from those shadows. As if a direct response, Pacific Rim: Uprising sets everything during the day. Now everything is so decidedly bland and washed out, it’s possible to intercut the footage with a Transformers sequel and be none the wiser. The camerawork is so chaotic and the editing so brazen, there’s no concern for establishing a sense of place, scale, or mood.

… it’s possible to intercut the footage with a Transformers sequel and be none the wiser

All of the monster/robot stuff happens in the final 20-25 minutes. Getting there is a chore. Most of the dialog recites plot points of the first movie. New exposition is equally souring. Pacific Rim: Uprising takes its young star Cailee Spaeny into a factory of giant robots – called Jaegers in the lore. Spaeny begins to smile and point out their names in order to better sell toys. The new color coded robot system isn’t enough apparently. So into its robots is Pacific Rim: Uprising, they fight each other. Then they turn into monsters themselves. Monsters AND robots in one? That’ll sell action figures.

Therein is most of the movie – robot on robot violence. Since little of the original cast returns (one sequel and Pacific Rim already pulls the “son of a guy” card), the focus here is on a young cast. Think Power Rangers; Pacific Rim: Uprising certainly was in pre-production.

And hey, maybe that final battle everyone pays to see turned out really cool (but it didn’t). Even still, the rest is embarrassingly sloppy, cut together without much care and writing itself into a mess of disastrous lore. At one stage, a kid practices “drifting” with a human brain. Just a brain. No one questions the ethical conundrum there, but maybe that conversation happened in the 10 years since the first movie.

Oh, and out goes that sense of international cooperation, a proud centerpiece of Pacific Rim. There’s one Jaeger base now. It’s in China (maybe?). Pacific Rim: Uprising doesn’t have a strong sense of location, outside of noting the final monster attack happens in Tokyo. What glee this movie takes in destroying Japan, but without ever understanding why Japan was always the target in Asian monster movies.

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Pick 20 writers who never saw the first Pacific Rim and ask them to write a sequel: That jumble of ideas is Pacific Rim: Uprising.

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