Oscar-winning fish pornographer Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim was a just-fine endeavor hailed as near-sexually-satisfying by a vocal community blessed/cursed with low expectations. Pacific Rim: Uprising is directed by a guy who produced a show called Travel Boobs and directed all of seven episodes of genre television before being handed a $150 million check to bang CGI robots together in the same way future ambassadors for toxic masculinity whack action figures together in grade school. You know what? Honestly, Travel Boobs did a better job.
Everything that worked in the first film is heightened. Charisma-spewer John Boyega replaces glowering generic male Charlie Hunnam as lead. The games of robot/monster Twister take place in the daylight on land, as opposed to the darkest-dark-of-night, mid-ocean brawls in the first installment. More than anything, the silliness dial is cranked up so high, the Godzilla remake looks like a very special Planet Earth episode by comparison. It’s not, you know, “good.” But it is unabashed escapist stupidity that delivers what was advertised and absolutely not one thing more.
If you don’t know, the dense Shakespearean narrative that probes existential questions about humanity is about robots that punch kaiju, which are monsters that slobber neon phlegm after being farted out of the ocean’s buttcrack. Set 10 years after the first film, Uprising begins with Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), the son of Idris Elba’s martyred character, being forced to train young jaeger pilots. Oh, right: They call the robots jaegers for absolutely no good reason, and they give the jaegers names that seem to consist of the most nonsensical pairing of words they can Mad Libs together. Pretty sure the ones this time out are something like Taco Disruptor, Lumberjack Pancake and Aphrodite Sphincter.
Jake feuds with his former partner, Nate Lambert, played by Scott Eastwood, a pile of nepotism with a five-o’clock shadow. Had he any less charm or watchability, even Charlie Hunnam’s agency “Legally Alive Male Actors” would have to drop Scott Eastwood, no matter how many chairs his daddy yells at during a televised convention. Anyway, the monsters that they defeated last time who will “never come back” come back, Charlie Day talks squeaky, loud and fast, and there’s no way the overmatched heroes can win until they do.
At no point, even accidentally, does Uprising almost become original. It also never becomes boring, somehow making the most banal exposition sequences approximate entertainment. Other than a massively uninspired misuse of the best character from the first film, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), nothing is even outright unpleasant, provided you willingly attended a live-action anime about kaiju-fighting robots and know what all those words mean in that order.
The film’s silly, undeserved-but-endearing, confident swagger culminates in a wholly unearned declaration about a third film that logic and restraint says is the opposite of inevitable. You know what? Provided they bring Boyega back, continue to ratchet up the absurdity, and let me name at least two jaegers (Frankenstein Cher and Odysseus Hemorrhoid), I’m all about it.
This review previously appeared in The Reader of Omaha, Nebraska.