The original Pacific Rim left a lot of room for improvement. The film had so much promise, referencing Godzilla and mecha anime, but with a big budget and recognizable actors. There were ideas at the heart of that first film — the whole concept of drifting, where two people merge their minds to pilot their mecha successfully, for example — that elevated it beyond things like the Transformers films. The world-building of Pacific Rim was unmatched. Unfortunately, it stumbled when it came time to drive a plot around that world. The end result felt like a mash-up of the anime Evangelion, and the 1995 US Godzilla movie. It was really weird.
Pacific Rim: Uprising brings nothing new to the table, nor does it manage to succeed at the basics of storytelling. Rather than build on the cool ideas established in the first film, it quickly acknowledges the ideas before going for the lowest common denominator.
Ten years after the Kaiju war, humanity has rebuilt its cities, the Jaeger program is still training new recruits, and a war hero’s son is partying in the husk of a giant dead monster. A rebellious girl builds her own Jaegers using stolen parts, fangirling over her favorite pilots while dreaming of a chance be a hero herself.
From minute one, Pacific Rim: Uprising seems like it may actually have some cool ideas of its own. It revisits elements from the first film, lightly dipping its toes into the origin story of the Kaiju and the implications of drifting and sharing memories. It even has a creative and fun way of inevitably reintroducing a giant monster threat. But as the minutes pass, the film becomes less interested in chasing big ideas or even basic character development, instead opting to become one endless action sequence until the credits roll.
When the wheels fall off, they fall off hard. Even extremely predictable, by-the-numbers character development seems to dive off of a cliff as the action picks up. An hour in, Pacific Rim: Uprising hits a fork in the road where a better script could have redeemed it. Instead, the film continues as if there is no script at all.
At this point any potential this franchise had has been burned to the ground. And of course Uprising teases a sequel, but I just can’t imagine it outside some sort of Netflix Original. A follow-up to Pacific Rim could have built this series into the live-action mecha franchise we all wished for. Instead, it might be best to keep hoping for someone else to try something completely new.