Thoughts on “Pacific Rim: Uprising”

So as noted last week, the next movie in that ten pack is “Pacific Rim:  Uprising” which is a sequel to “Pacific Rim” which I only know about through Chuck Sonnenberg’s review of that.  Thus, I’m coming into this a bit behind the eight-ball, as I am only vaguely aware of the overall universe and the characters and events from the first movie, which is a bit important here.  Still, any decent sequel does have to explain things enough so that people who start there can at least understand enough to enjoy this one, even if they might be a bit confused at times.

The universe is basically a Mecha vs Kaiju universe, where Rifts to an alien Hell dimension have started randomly opening and the aliens in that dimension have started sending huge monsters through to attack Earth, presumably at least in preparation for an invasion.  Humanity responds by building huge mechs that require two — or more — people working in sync to run, with them being joined by a neural interface.  In the first movie, the organization that runs this manages to build and develop mechs and pilots that are eventually strong enough to beat the monsters back and seal the Rifts, presumably ending the threat.

The sequel fast forwards to a number of years later.  The organization has been ramping down a bit, and its mandate has changed from stopping the monsters to tracking down people stealing, selling and using the mech tech.  The main character used to be a mech pilot and is the son of a man who sacrificed himself to seal the Rifts, but now he’s selling mech tech using his knowledge of how they work from when he was in the organization.  A raid goes wrong because another person is there at the same time and steals the things first, and this turns out to be a young girl who is obsessed with being a pilot who has built her own mech.  Anyway, they both get caught and both get enlisted — or re-enlisted, in the case of the main character — into the organization.

Meanwhile, the organization is about to be replaced by a set of automated drones, which is an issue for them.  The head of the company is portrayed as completely amoral and only concerned about getting the contract.  At a demonstration for the drones, another rogue mech shows up, kills the main characters adoptive sister, which prompts the immediate activation of the drones.  This turns out to be a bad idea, because one of the former pilots from the first movie had interacted with the aliens and is now working for them, and has co-opted the drones to re-open Rifts, which spawns three hugely powerful monsters who want to go to Mount Fuji and use their energy to trigger a disaster that will turn Earth into a wasteland like the home dimension of the aliens.  The drones attack the main base of the organization and so put out of condition most of the mechs and almost all of the pilots except for the trainees, who must get together in what mechs remain with the main character and his former mech partner to take out the monsters and save the planet.

I have to start by saying that while I understand the neural interface idea and think it’s interesting, in practice what you have are two people standing next to each other acting in pantomime, because the controls are mechanical for the most part, and it looks kinda silly.  The worst is when they have to run, as they are basically running in place in sync, which always struck me as being funny.  It does have an impact on the fight scenes, at least for me, but doesn’t really ruin the movie.

The main issue I have with this movie is that it seems like it was written with tropes but that they don’t all mesh together and aren’t properly developed.  We have the former pilot being dragged back in who eventually has to embrace that life and lead, the former partner now rival out of a sense of betrayal, the conflict between them being exacerbated by a love interest, the young ingenue who is looked down upon for not getting there the right way but who is eventually accepted for her abilities, and so on and so forth.  About the only thing that isn’t really that is the betrayal plot, and that follows on from the first movie which means that it loses some of its emotional heft because I’m not really aware of the characters or of their relationship or of the reasons why the one betrays humanity, although his move from submissive to mastermind works pretty well.

I also have to give it some credit for pacing and action scenes, as aside from how silly sometimes the neural interface can look the fights move well and are suitably dramatic, and the rest of the plot around it proceeds at a good pace with everything seeming relevant so that you don’t feel that the movie is dragging its feet.  Ultimately, in my opinion that makes it a decent action romp, but I have no real attachment to either Kaiju or Mecha, did not see the original movie, and am not a huge fan of action movies at the best of times, so while I have to say that it’s not a bad movie, there’s really nothing in the movie for me to latch onto, as I don’t really care for the universe, don’t care for the characters as they seem to be more tropes and archetypes than real characters, and don’t care about the action either.  So this is a movie that I will not watch again, although in this case that’s more because it’s not my type of movie than that it’s a bad movie per se.  People more interested in its genre would have to judge that.


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