It is I, Andi, your friendly neighborhood fangirl!
I’ve been on the road for the past…well, a while, but I did manage to catch Pacific Rim: Uprising (FINALLY; it dropped in March this year) during my travels and HOLY GIANT MONSTERS AND ROBOT BATTLES, BATMAN!
(link, in case the embed disappears)
Okay, before I get into this, a little background.
AND SOME SPOILERS!
I loved the first one of these, Pacific Rim (2013), directed by Guillermo del Toro and including cast like Idris Elba, becuse of its glorious cinematography and special effects in addition to its fascinating premise.
Pacific Rim is an homage to Japanese kaiju (from the Japanese, “strange beast”) monster movies, evoking the classic films in which giant beasts stomp across major cities and battle the military or other giant monsters. Only in this take, the kaiju are battled by giant robots (mechs) called Jaegers (German for “hunter” and they’re, like, 250 feet tall!). The Jaegers are so big that they require two or three pilots physically in the mech’s head (the comm-pod) who are linked via a neural bridge, or Drift. A single pilot would not be able to effectively interface with the hugeness of the mech’s tech, and would end up brain-fried.
Think right-brain and left-brain. One pilot for right-brain, one for left (with exceptions — some Jaegers have three pilots), working in tangent.
So you’ve got these two people — mostly same-sex pairings, but occasionally opposite-sex — literally suited up and standing in the head of a Jaeger, wired to it and neurally linked to each other so that every movement made by one of them is mirrored in the Jaeger’s movements, so when the Jaeger runs, for example, you see the two pilots inside it running in tangent. It’s an advanced virtual reality military weapon.
That’s one of the most intriguing things about the 2013 movie, was the Drift between pilots as they worked together to control the massive mechs, and the scenes of them engaged in that work were so freaking cool.
Watch this Jaeger suit-up scene from the 2013 Pacific Rim as the Becket brothers get ready to engage Jaeger Gipsy Danger:
Del Toro, when developing the screenplay with Travis Beacham from one of the latter’s short stories, wanted each Jaeger (and there were some 30 made within the canon of the movie) to have an individual look, name, and personality. The Jaegers are like nothing out of any other canon — del Toro said that though anime might have been an influence, these robots would be occupying a universe all their own, and are like nothing we’ve ever seen in film (that link is a super-cool featurette about how del Toro and his crew developed the Jaegers).
At any rate, the premise of the 2013 Pacific Rim is that kaiju have been terrorizing the world so military forces built Jaegers to battle them until higher category kaijus (i.e. much bigger-ass ones than the originals) started showing up and beating Jaegers.
So Jaegers were decommissioned and giant sea walls were built to stave off kaiju. Except even bigger kaiju appeared, so Jaegers were put back into action. It was also determined that an alien species called “precursors” had opened an interdimensional breach in the Pacific Ocean and were sending the kaiju with their radioactive blood to lay waste to whatever they could. That movie ended with the breach being closed by a Jaeger that swam down to it and blew it closed with a nuke, after a couple of scientists got some intel through Drifting with a kaiju infant.
Check out the trailer for the 2013 Pacific Rim:
Which brings us to the 2018 film, starring a fabulous John Boyega (you might know him as Finn from the recent Star Wars movies) as Jake Pentecost, son of the previous film’s hero, Stacker Petecost (Idris Elba).
AND you don’t need to see the first one to see the second one because Boyega’s Jake gives you a voiceover narration for the first 5 minutes or so summing up what happened in the Kaiju War and the state of affairs in the present day. You’ll also get little reveals of backstory to that one throughout this one.
At any rate, it’s ten years after the Kaiju War, and the world is still in recovery mode (I mean, those kaiju did a major Pacific Rim Job on the planet…omg…couldn’t resist…lol), to the point that a lot of coastal cities had been abandoned, but a lot of people are eking out a dystopic living, squatting in abandoned mansions and establishing black markets for whatever, including Jaeger parts from various scrap yards.
As we find out, Jake bailed from the Jaeger corp and now makes a living as a thief and black marketeer, which invariably brings him into contact with Amara Nahari (played by a great Cailee Spaeny), a street urchin who lost her family in the Kaiju War and now spends her time preparing for the return of the kaiju, which she’s sure will happen. So she freaking built her own mini-Jaeger from stolen and salvaged parts, that can be piloted by one (named Scrapper…how cute is that?).
Regardless, she and Jake end up trying to escape from an actual patrol Jaeger (it’s a violation of the law to have unregistered Jaegers) and they end up in custody — of the Jaeger corps. Amara is placed into cadet training while Jake — who had attained Ranger status — is put in charge of training recruits to save him from a prison sentence.
And can I just say, there’s a great bit when Amara and Jake arrive at the Jaeger base and she sees all the Jaegers and totally fangirls over them (remember, each is an individual with its own handle), saying the names of each of them and practically squee-ing. Cute bit.
Also, I LOVED the rapport between Jake and Amara. And it was so great to see John Boyega as a snarky action hero with some great quirks. He’s way into junk food, which kind of makes him lovable, and he has some awesome one-liners and some hilarious back-and-forths with Amara (who he calls “Smallie”). These two characters end up Drifting, and how cool is it that these two are heroes together?
As a result, he ends up working with fellow Ranger Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood — yes THAT Eastwood and damn, he looks and sounds a lot like his dad), who is still pissed at him for leaving. The two of them have a great tense relationship that they work through so they can work together piloting a Jaegerm, though Nate steps back when he’s injured and lets Amara step in.
The premise here is we have Shao Industries, which has developed a drone program that may put the Jaegers out of business because the drones — slightly smaller Jaegers — can be remotely operated. But unbeknownst to Liwen Shao (Tian Jing), one of her main scientists/PR guys, Newton Greiszler (Charlie Day reprising his role from the 2013 film) has been sabotaging the program, and infusing the drones with kaiju DNA, making drone/kaiju hybrids.
Which of course is a Very Bad Thing and I’ll let you watch it to see how that unfolds.
And it is WELL worth a watch, if only for the visual effects. But you also get well-rounded characters, adrenaline rushes, pacing, and dialogue. It’s an epic thrill ride with touches of backstory for context and left me wanting to know what happens next, and given the scene after the main title rolls, I’m thinking there’s going to be a follow-up.
Sure, there are some plot elements that don’t really tie up (perhaps lost in editing…?), and I think the villain plot could have been a bit better developed, and it is a bit more light-hearted in some respects than the 2013 film, which had a super-dark edge and some really thought-provoking moments, and it also has what I thought was a needless death of a woman to galvanize the hero (such a trope; you’ll see if you watch it), and if you go in expecting the 2013 film, you’ll probably be disappointed.
So don’t expect that. consider it maybe decent fanfic of the original and get some popcorn and some friends and give it a look. I recommend a big-screen TV with a good sound system. Because sound in the Pacific Rim ‘verse is also key.
Also, can Boyega please get a lead role in an action film? I could watch that guy all day. And yeah, can Spaeny get one, too? I like her style.
ANYWAY, this is a good escape movie and hell, we could all use a bit of that these days.
Happy Friday and may The Force be with you.