Jaegers (giant robots) and Kaiju (huge primeval creatures with interdimensional containment issues) are again going head to head in ‘Pacific Rim Uprising’, and while director Guillermo del Toro has not returned for this sequel to his 2013 original, TV veteran Steven S DeKnight (Netflix’s ‘Daredevil’) proves a more-than-capable replacement. ‘Uprising’ may lack some of the texture and personality of Del Toro’s work, but it’s still a film he would have gone to see a dozen times when he was a young monster fan.
More than 20 minutes shorter than its predecessor and set ten years later, ‘Uprising’ eschews complex world-building and subtle characterisations to provide rock-’em- sock-’em robotics for undiscerning sci-fi fans. John Boyega, star of ‘The Force Awakens’ and ‘The Last Jedi’, plays Jake Pentecost, son of the first film’s heroic, deceased Stacker. Apprehended for illegally dealing Jaeger hardware, Jake is given the chance to wipe his slate clean by helping instruct new robot-pilot cadets, including fellow orphan and mechanical wiz Amara (newcomer Cailee Spaeny).
Familiar basic-training shenanigans follow, along with some clichéd intrigue involving a tech CEO who wants to introduce unmanned Jaegers. Livening things up are Charlie Day and Burn Gorman as returning oddball scientists Geiszler and Gottlieb; the former has one moment in which he gets a little too personally involved in his hyperzoological studies, suggesting a distinctively weird road that ‘Uprising’ chooses not to travel down.
There’s a directness and swift pace to the first hour or so that works on an elemental level, and the final act is a delirious sugar rush of city-smashing spectacle (in Tokyo, of course, which has been evacuated to avoid any pesky collateral damage), delivering precisely the goods the movie promises. Generic it may be, but ‘Uprising’ kicks the metal ass of any of the ponderous ‘Transformers’ films.