Well, maybe not so unexpected if you were already a fan of Del Toro, who recently received Oscars for best director and best picture at the Academy Awards.
I’ve been a fan ever since the release of Blade 2 in 2002, which had me wondering how any film with “Blade” and “2” in the title could be so much fun.
Del Toro, when he’s not cleaning up the art house and the awards’ ceremonies with a Pan’s Labyrinth or Shape of Water, is an old school creature-movie wunderkind (someone who achieves success at a relatively young age).
He has a gift for inserting satisfyingly idiosyncratic characters into storms of deeply inventive set-pieces and effects sequences that I reckon no one in the world – not James Cameron, or Peter Jackson, or Michael Bay, can match.
Del Toro’s Hell Boy and that first Pacific Rim are still my personal gold-standard for just how affecting and smart a big dumb film can be. So, no pressure, debut director Steven DeKnight.
If your Pacific Rim: Uprising doesn’t deliver, it’s just my inner-10-year-old’s heart you’ll be breaking.
Any film based on the premise of men and women piloting giant robots to defend the earth from an invasion of dimension-crossing dragons and monsters at least has to bring the carnage, often, and in industrial quantities. And Uprising does deliver.
After a worryingly talky and explanatory first-third, the film does get down to some satisfyingly silly business.
With monsters – “Kaiju” – pouring out of the sea bed and foreshore, and a serious shortage of robots – “Jaegers”, and pilots to drive them, humanity is again at the brink and the apocalypse that Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentecost “cancelled” in episode one has been recommissioned.
Stacker’s son Jake (John Boyega) is in the force now, and sharing the bro-power dynamics with Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood, nearly a ringer for his dad).
When a rogue Jaeger turns up in Sydney Harbour to ruin the unveiling of a class of drone-Jaegers, it’s up to these two to mend their friendship and train up a multi-national assortment of teen recruits to...yadda yadda.
Plots. Who needs them?
This is Pacific Rim. What I want are cool effects, some great jokes, a couple of memorable lines and a set-up for a sequel worth looking forward to.
And, to be fair, Uprising probably ticks enough boxes to get a pass mark.
The fights come big and often, the characters are likeable, if a little shrill and silly at times, and Boyega does get off a couple of decent quips.
The best moment, by far, belongs to returning character Newt (Charlie Day) sinking into a mind-meld with a Kaiju brain to the strains of Foreigner’s I Want To Know What Love Is.
It’s a moment worthy of del Toro and it had me yawping with laughter in a near-empty cinema.
A sequel to an unexpectedly great film is a near-impossible act to pull off.
Pacific Rim: Uprising is neither a terrible disappointment nor a thundering triumph.
It’s an adequate second act with enough flourish and wit to send that inner-10-year-old out happy enough to have seen it. Maybe it was the ice-cream I bought him.
- Graeme Tuckett/ Stuff