Sat, 22 Sep 2018

Pacific Rim: Uprising

Director: Steven S. DeKnight
Screenplay: Steven S. DeKnight & Emily Carmichael & Kira Snyder and T.S. Nowlin (based on characters created by Travis Beacham)
Stars: John Boyega (Jake Pentecost), Scott Eastwood (Nate Lambert), Cailee Spaeny (Amara Namani), Burn Gorman (Hermann Gottlieb), Charlie Day (Dr. Newton Geiszler), Tian Jing (Liwen Shao), Max Zhang (Marshal Quan), Adria Arjona (Jules Reyes), Rinko Kikuchi (Mako Mori), Karan Brar (Cadet Suresh), Wesley Wong (Cadet Jinhai), Ivanna Sakhno (Cadet Viktoria), Mackenyu (Cadet Ryoichi)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Year of Release: 2018
Country: U.S. / China / U.K.
Pacific Rim: Uprising
Pacific Rim: Uprising

Pacific Rim (2014), the giant monsters-vs-giant robots mayhem extravaganza, always felt like an unlikely project for fantasy-horror auteur Guillermo del Toro, but you don't quite realize just how much he brought to that film until you see the del Toro-less sequel Pacific Rim: Uprising (he stayed on as executive producer, but was otherwise uninvolved). Uprising rehashes the gargantuan battle sequences from the original and leans heavily on the enormous scale of its premise, but it dispenses with all of the weird, quirky, oddball, and sometimes gross details that gave del Toro's film some character. With Uprising, we see quite clearly how Pacific Rim could have been just a big, dumb monster movie without del Toro's visual acumen and fascination with the eerie and grotesque.

Stepping into del Toro's shoes is Steven S. DeKnight, who is making his feature directorial debut after nearly two decades of executive producing, writing, and directing episodes of various fantasy-action television series, including Angel, Smallville, Dollhouse, and Daredevil. And, while DeKnight is certainly a component craftsman who does a notably good job of managing the action sequences, which remain blessedly coherent and free of Michael Bay-style overload, he lacks an appreciable personality, which renders the robot-monster mash largely rote. After all, you can only watch giant CGI humanoid robots and reptilian monsters smashing through glass skyscrapers, pulverizing overpasses, and crushing cars before it all starts to run together.

It doesn't help much that the storyline, written by DeKnight, playwright Emily Carmichael, television producer/writer Kira Snyder (The 100, The Handmaiden's Tale), and T.S. Nowlin (The Maze Runner), is a mishmash of character clichés and overly familiar narrative arcs, starting with the prodigal-son protagonist, Jake Pentecost (Star Wars's John Boyega using his native British accent), the son of the first film's martyr-hero. The action picks up 10 years after the end of the first film, which found humankind saving the planet from kaiju, giant marauding creatures who came into our world through an interdimensional portal at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, by constructing jaegers, building-sized robots that were so powerful they could only be piloted by two humans who were neutrally linked. Jake has spent that time running from his heritage by playing the part of the bad-boy criminal stealing jaeger parts, which leads to him crossing paths with Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny), a young woman who has been building her own jaeger (which is highly illegal). They are both pressed into military service, which brings Jake back into contact with Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood), a square-jawed do-gooder with whom he previously served and with whom he has a long-standing grudge that we all know will eventually be forgiven when they have to fight side by side against the returning kaiju.

And return the kaiju do, although not exactly as you might expect. If Pacific Rim: Uprising has an upside, it is that the storyline resists an outright rehashing of the first film's plot at every turn by delaying the return of the kaiju in favor of an extended mystery involving a rogue jaeger and the incursion of a Chinese mega-corporation run by Liwen Shao (Tian Jing), who wants to replace the jaeger pilots with drones. Shao has in her employ Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day), a returning character from the first film whose droll jocularity provides the film its comic relief and masks what turns out to be a surprising narrative turn. It's not enough to save the film from feeling like a retread of what we've already seen, and while a final act "We're taking the fight to them" declaration all but ensures a third installment, it's hard to feel like there's much more than can be done here.

Pacific Rim: Uprising Blu-ray + DVD + Digital

Aspect Ratio2.39:1
Audio
  • English Dolby Atmos
  • English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 surround
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • SubtitlesEnglish, French, Spanish
    Supplements
  • Audio commentary by director Steven S. DeKnight
  • Deleted scenes with commentary by DeKnight
  • "Hall of Heroes" featurette
  • "Bridge to Uprising" featurette
  • "The Underworld of Uprising" featurette
  • "Becoming Cadets" featurette
  • "Unexpected Villain" featurette
  • "Next Level Jaegers" featurette
  • "I Am Scrapper" featurette
  • "Going Mega" featurette
  • "Secrets of Shao" featurette
  • "Mako Returns" featurette
  • DistributorUniversal Pictures Home Entertainment
    SRP$34.98
    Release DateJune 19, 2018

    COMMENTS
    Universal's 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation of Pacific Rim: Uprising looks pretty much exactly as you might expect it to look: incredibly sharp, insanely detailed, intensely colorful, and bearing a distinctly crisp, digital inflection that seamlessly merges the CGI and the live action. It's a very modern-looking film in this regard, and the direct digital port represents its aesthetic well. The intricate mechanics of the jaegers and the reptilian grotesquerie of the kaiju are both well rendered, and unlike the original Pacific Rim, the vast majority of the film after the first 15 minutes takes place in bright sunlight (the final battle unfolds in the streets of Tokyo in the middle of the day). The image is bright and clear and very well rendered, as is the Dolby TrueHD 7.1-channel soundtrack, which is quite literally thundering for much of the film's running time. The battle sequences are appropriately enveloping, with heavy use of the surround channels for immersive sonic detail.

    In terms of supplements, we get a generally enjoyable and informative audio commentary by director Steven S. DeKnight and nine featurettes that focus briefly on various aspects of the film's production and story (together they run just over half an hour): "Becoming Cadets" (6 min.) looks at each of the new jaeger cadet characters; "Unexpected Villain" (6 min.) looks at the film's surprising new villain; "Bridge to Uprising" (5 min.) features interviews with the cast and crew about how the sequel connects to the first film; "Next Level Jaegers" (5 min.) offers an all-too-brief technical examination of the film's new hardware; "The Underworld of Uprising" (4 min.) briefly considers the film's open sequence set in the aftermath of the first film's battles; "Hall of Heroes (3 min.) features actor John discussing the specifics of each jaeger; "I Am Scrapper" (3 min.) looks at Amara's cobbled-together jaeger; "Going Mega" (3 min.) considers the new mega-kaiju; "Secrets of Shao" (3 min.) features an interview with actress Tian Jing about her character, Liwen Shao; and "Mako Returns (2 min.) looks at, uh, Mako's return.

    Copyright © 2018 James Kendrick

    Thoughts? E-mail James Kendrick

    All images copyright © Universal Pictures

    Overall Rating: (2)

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