Collin's been a movie critic since 2009. In real life he works in marketing and is also a novelist ("Good Riddance" published in Oct 2015).
It’s been a long nine months since the last Transformers movie exploded into theaters, leaving people who harbor a chronic addiction to big-bam-boom movies about giant robots blowing stuff up perhaps feeling a little empty inside. Sure, Pacific Rim: Uprising may not be an actual Transformers movie, but who are we kidding? This thing is more Transformery than Michael Bay’s basement man cave, and as big-bam-boom movies go, it’s not half-bad.
It may feel woefully out of place in the nascent days of spring, as opposed to, say, the throes of summer, but the wafer-thin plot gracefully bows out of the way for a solid under-two-hours of effects-laden fights between mega-robots (Jeagers) and even bigger monsters (Kaiju).
Picking up ten years after the events of 2013’s first installment, Uprising starts by introducing us to Jake (John Boyega), the heretofore unmentioned son of Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentecost (has there been a better name in all of recent movie-dom?). Jake spends his days scavenging in the Los Angeles ruins for Jaeger parts to sell on the black market, and one afternoon he runs into Amara (Cailee Spaeny), a whiz-kid who’s built her own Jaeger.
It doesn’t take long, though, for them both to get arrested by the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps, which just happens to be run by Jake’s adoptive sister Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), reprising her role from the first film. She gives Jake a choice of going to prison or returning to the corps to train recruits for the day when the Kaiju eventually return. He decides to forgo prison, and, wouldn’t you know it, it’s at that moment that the Kaiju return.
That’s all the set-up Uprising needs to forget about pesky things like dialogue and plot development and just go full-bore into the big, loud explosions and battles and monster-on-robot fights. First-timer Steven S. DeKnight takes over the reins from the original’s director Guillermo del Toro (who stayed on as producer this go-round) and abandons all subtlety and nuance in favor of making things as blow-uppy as possible. And, frankly, there isn’t really anything wrong with that—it’s what we’re here for, right? Entire cities are wiped out (with no regard for civilian body count, natch), and, for the first time that I can remember, skyscrapers are used as weapons. Yes, a Kaiju rips a skyscraper off its foundation and tosses it at a hundred-story-tall robot. And if that’s not delightfully mindless summer(esque) movie magic, I don’t know what is.
Charlie Day and Burn Gorman reprise their roles as scientists from the original film and play well off each other, injecting plenty of humor along the way. And newcomer Spaeny does an admirable job showing off some talent amidst all the explosions. But we’re here for the fighting robots and the monsters, and on that level Uprising delivers in spades. It may not offer much in the way of anything else, but it’s a full twenty minutes shorter than the original, and that alone makes it worth the trip.
Worth the 3D glasses?
Heck, if you're actually in the mood for something like this, you may as well go all out. DeKnight doesn't skimp in the eye-candy department, so it's worth the extra few bucks.