I was invited to the premier of ‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ at the newly opened Legend Theater in Exchange Square. I honestly love attending opening events. There is just something about the fanfare and general energy of excited fans that add to the experience.
I am not a long-time fan of the film. In fact, I never saw the first Pacific Rim. So, I am not quite sure if long-time fans would be pleased or disappointed with the Uprising. But for the newcomers in this franchise, you can watch the sequel and catch up quickly enough.
‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ is certainly a kid-friendly sequel – letting a bunch of teens take charge of the giant, robotic jaegers (robotic giants) tasked with defeating the Kaiju monsters. This is a considerably nice break from most hero films that put kids on the sideline.
The film also seemed to me as a bit of a crossover of Godzilla and Terminator. It has a very old Asian feel to it despite the fact that it’s packed with CGIs and action scenes. What’s commendable about the Uprising is the way the robots are made to become more human-like.
The first ‘Pacific Rim’ released in 2013 showed how Earth was being terrorised by sea monsters called Kaiju. The monsters emerged from the Breach, an inter-dimensional portal in the Pacific Ocean.
Earthlings were able to fight back with giant robots called Jaegers, eventually closing the Breach through which they entered the land of the humans. The war would have not been won without the sacrifice of General Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), who blew himself up to save the planet.
Pacific Rim Uprising is set 10 years after the death the Kaiju War hero. Jake (played by John Boyega), General Pentecost’s son, is unable to fill his father’s shoes. The film starts off with us following how things unfold for Jake, the once potential hero who turned himself into a professional criminal who steals Jaeger parts on the black market. It’s through his illegal activities that Jake gets to meet Amara Namani.
Amara is a Jaeger-building prodigy played by Cailee Spaeny. She has been working on building her own Jaeger out of scrap metals when she becomes entangled with Jake. The first action sequence of the movie has her in the cockpit controlling her own Jaeger, much to the dismay of Jake.
Jake is then arrested by the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps and was forced to re-enlist to train recruits of the Jaeger programme. Jake chooses Amara to be his first trainee, which eventually paved the way for the two to bond throughout the whole movie.
The movie is action-filled, as expected, but the sequence of events gets a bit tiring and unexciting. As soon as the hero has put one antagonist away, another one emerges right after – making the threats more central to the story than the characters themselves.
Personally, I wish the movie had less action and CGI effects and more back stories to justify the behaviours of the different characters. As I watched the film, I wanted to sympathise with them as they hurl themselves back to the cockpits of giant robots or out of the giant toxic monster. There is an evident lack of emotional connection between the characters and the viewers. I know compelling back stories can be sewn up for each role, like how each of them ended up signing up for the cause. That can be a good start in highlighting their emotional relevance to their spectators.
But despite the obvious limitation in character development, the film showcased one big surprise. Chinese star Jing Tian plays Liwen Shao – a cutthroat businesswoman looking to turn Jaegers into remote drones, a strategy burdened with moral dilemmas.
It is these very drones that end up going rouge, causing heaps of serious of troubles. At first, the viewer is lead to believe she would do anything for profit, possibly even create killer machines that leave no chance for the famous Jaeger team to defeat.
Shao wants her drones to be the sole chance for human survival. But as the story progresses, she ends up sacrificing herself for the greater good.
Shao’s character gave her audience an emotional rollercoaster. I, for one, sort of hated her bitchiness and overall arrogance at the start of the film. But the twist on her story made me leave the cinema with a feeling of wanting to be like the badass Chinese chick.
Aside from Shao, Jake is another obvious character who has the greatest ability to grow. We see him as a harden criminal and watch him evolve into something better than his heroic father in many ways. He has this very human aspect – flaws and all – I think most viewers can relate to. Jake’s character makes it easier for the viewers to identify him as a hero as events unfold in his own eyes.
This movie may not be film I would want to watch over and over again but it is one that is worth a weekend view at cinema in 3D. While I felt the plot could have had more to it, I leave it to the next franchise to deal with. Investing on back stories and emotional connections will surely be worth the try for the film’s writers and directors.
Nevertheless, the film can be a good escape from the scorching heat outside the theaters. Sit back, relax and enjoy watching ‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ with some popcorn at hand.