Angry monsters are back, but Guillermo del Toro isn't, in 'Pacific Rim' sequel
Posted March 21, 2018 3:07 p.m. EDT
There are breaches in the Pacific Ocean, and out of it can come really humongous monsters, and there's no pleasing any of them. They show up angry, and all they want to do is walk into office buildings. Last time -- as depicted in ``Pacific Rim'' -- they made a mess out of San Francisco and some other less-interesting places, before the breaches could be closed and monsters defeated.
In ``Pacific Rim Uprising,'' it's 10 years later, and so far, no monsters. And it would have been so nice if it might have stayed like that, because the movie's first five minutes hint at something interesting: What is it like 10 years after a completely resolved catastrophe? That is, not an apocalypse, but a world trying to get back to normal 10 years after human life almost ended. John Boyega is shown at a raucous pool party, and in voiceover he says, ``Some of us live better in a broken world.''
That's one of only two good lines in the movie, but it's definitely a good line.
Alas, ``Pacific Rim Uprising'' cannot be a story about the deep life questions of people living with the memory of disaster, because the audience for that kind of movie wouldn't see ``Pacific Rim Uprising,'' and the people who'd go to see ``Pacific Rim Uprising'' want the monsters -- or ``kaiju'' -- to come back. So the kaiju return. And 10 years in confinement have done nothing for their attitude.
Boyega plays Jake, the son of the great hero played by Idris Elba in the previous movie. In the world of ``Pacific Rim Uprising,'' there's only one thing that can beat the kaiju, and that's a machine called a ``Jaeger,'' an enormous, robot-like thing, operated by two pilots who stand together making synchronized gestures that, in turn, cause the robot to either run, jump or punch something. (It's usually one of those three.) Jake is a Jaeger pilot, and his operating partner is Nate, played by Scott Eastwood, who sounds so much like his father, Clint, that at times you might think that he's joking around.
A large percentage of screen time in ``Pacific Rim Uprising'' consists of battles, sometimes between Jaegers, sometimes involving drones and sometimes featuring the sight of kaiju feet pounding ever closer, as Tokyo residents flee for shelter. How you feel about the movie will be determined by how much you relish fake destruction as created on a computer. In any case, it should be noted that ``Pacific Rim Uprising'' was directed by Steven S. DeKnight, making his first feature, and DeKnight doesn't attempt to invest his monsters with majesty, the way Guillermo del Toro did in the previous film. With DeKnight it's just a lot of pounding, smashing and driving, purely functional.
The good news, to the extent there is any, is that the non-action scenes have their moments. The movie introduces an engaging newcomer, Cailee Spaeny, as a teenager who likes building Jaegers in her spare time. And the movie finds good things to do with Burn Gorman and Charlie Day, who provided the most entertaining element of the previous installment, as a comical pair of bickering scientists. Here they've become more serious and more integral.
There's also a second good line of dialogue. The identity and gender of the person who says it must not be revealed, so as not to give away a major plot point, but suffice it to say the line is said well. Unexpectedly well, as in chilling. When this person says it, for some reason, you believe it.
The line comes in response to the question, ``What are you doing?'' The answer: ``What I've been planning for the last 10 years. Ending the world.''
Maybe you had to be there.
Unfortunately, as ``Pacific Rim Uprising'' wears on, the monsters and the machines take over -- not the world, but the movie.
Mick LaSalle is The San Francisco Chronicle's movie critic.
Pacific Rim Uprising
2 stars out of 4 stars Science Fiction. Starring John Boyega an Charlie Day. Directed by Steven S. DeKnight. (PG-13. 111 minutes.)