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Pacific Rim: Uprising is to sci-fi flicks what a bodybuilding competition is to sports—a beefy display with little drama. The formulaic film’s impressive visual effects likely won’t win over viewers hoping for a good story.
In the original Pacific Rim, monstrous creatures called Kaiju emerged from an intergalactic “breach” located on the Pacific Ocean floor. Humans fought the invaders by building giant robots called Jaegers, each operated by multiple human pilots positioned inside the robot’s frame and wired mind and body to each other and into the robot’s software. Stacker Pentecost sacrificed his life defeating the Kaiju and sealing the breach, saving the world.
Uprising opens 10 years later. Loners and isolated bands of humans scrounge for survival in the rubble left over from the widespread destruction of the Kaiju-Jaeger battles. The profit-hungry Shao Corp. manufactures Jaegers, but someone on the inside doesn’t have Earth’s best interests in mind. Instead of pursuing what could be an interesting post-apocalyptic tale, though, the film settles into a clash of alien and mechanical titans.
As in many recent futuristic films, in Uprising the planet’s fate rests with a small group of teens. Slow to join in is Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), Stacker’s son, who wants nothing more than to escape the shadow of his father’s legend. The film (rated PG-13 for expletives, sci-fi violence, and some sensuality) muddles through requisite scenes of combat training, where rivalries fester until the reluctant hero rallies the troops.
“We are a family,” Jake implores. “We are Earth’s last defense. Now help me save the world.”
Before their training is complete (of course), the teens are thrust into action. They pilot Jaegers against a renegade robot and against more Kaiju after a new breach opens.
The real muscle behind the $150 million production is an army of visual artists and other crew members who designed the formidable computer graphics: The giants trample bridges and trash skyscrapers. And as in classic monster movies, the final showdown takes place in Tokyo.