‘Pacific Rim’ sequel ups the ante for epic rock ‘em sock ‘em action
Unlike the noisy and quickly tiresome “Transformers” franchise (yes, I said it), when director Guillermo del Toro adapted (and presented) Travis Beacham’s comic book into the “Pacific Rim” sci-fi action film in 2013, he tapped into an even more engaging guilty pleasure for boys who like big toys.
Now, del Toro steps into the executive producer’s chair for the sequel, handing over the director’s viewfinder to Steven S. DeKnight, whose previous work has been rooted in the small screen. Make no mistake, though, DeKnight stepped up to the formidable task of putting together a pretty entertaining movie that pits giant robots called Jaegers (German for “hunter”) against massive, nearly unstoppable monsters from another dimension called Kaiju (Japanese for giant creatures of legend), and yet keeps the story human-centric.
Both films emerged as an amalgam of various ideas spread across the sci-fi movie spectrum going back decades and generations. From “Kronos” (1957) to the various smackdowns in the King KongGodzilla universe to the slugfests among modern super-heroes, big robots and monsters have been pivotal in the drastic urban renewal of major cities the world over.
But here, they come together as pawns in a larger story about ways humanity can come together to stave off annihilation from forces H.P. Lovecraft could only dream about. In this film, it has been more than a decade since Jaeger pilots Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) and Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam, who is missing from this movie) saved the world by destroying a breach at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean that tore open an interdimensional link between our universe and that of “The Precursors,” alien beings that use giant monsters to destroy and then invade new worlds.
As this story picks up, we are introduced to Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), son of Kaiju War hero Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba). Even though the threat of extinction has been eliminated, the world’s Jaeger program is still maintained just in case the Kaiju return. But, now, the two-pilot system, which uses a “drift” technology to meld their minds, is reluctantly about to be replaced by a huge army of drone Jaegers, machines operated by a single pilot sitting in front of a screen anywhere in the world.
Jake is not his father. Although he has the talent to become a skilled Jaeger pilot, he rejects the career path and instead makes a living selling illegal Jaeger parts on the black market.
If you saw the first movie, Jake’s presence may be a little puzzling since no mention is made of any family in Stacker’s world other than his adopted daughter Mako. Anyway, Jake gets arrested and is given a choice: jail or recruitment as a teacher in the Jaeger pilot program.
In the meantime, a teenage girl named Amara Namani (appealing newcomer Cailee Spaeny) has built for herself a mini-Jaeger she calls Scrapper. She gets captured by the PanPacific Defence Corps and is also given a similar choice, which is how she gets set to become a pilot under Jake’s tutelage.
After the Kaiju War, the internationally pervasive Shao Corp. privatized the entire Jaeger program and is now behind its complete overhaul. Dr. Herman Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) and Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) return as researchers at odds because one believes in the old system while the other is committed to the new.
If you saw the first movie, one of the main plot points involves discovering the true motives of The Precursors by going into drift mode with a Kaiju brain. That action has evolved into something much more ominous in this movie. “Uprising” isn’t so much about Earth’s defense against another Kaiju War, but against what some humans have done with the remnants left behind. It’s an interesting take that also lays the groundwork for a franchise with some promise. “Pacific Rim: Uprising” is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language
It is showing daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7. com.
HEROIC JAEGERS square off for an epic fight in “Pacific Rim: Uprising.” (Cailee Spaeny), left foreground, and Jake Pentecost (John Boyega) assess their next big challenge.
JAEGER DRIVERS AMARA NAMANI
RINKO KIKUCHI RETURNS as Mako Mori