When giant monstrous Kaijus fight giant robots, in theory, everybody wins. At least that was the case in the original Pacific Rim. But how is its sequel? Five years later, this franchise-in-the-making has a new director. Instead of beloved Shape of Water director Guillermo del Toro, Steven S. DeKnight was running the show. And in place of Idris Elba, John Boyega of Star Wars fame is the focus, starring as Jack Pentecost, the son of Elba’s commanding officer from the first film. So, with Pacific Rim Uprising will audiences still come out on top in the battle between Kaijus and Jaegers? The first reviews are out and critics aren’t happy. Plus, a few of them miss del Toro, too.
The Hollywood Reporter feels the lack of del Toro, who served only as a producer on the sequel, resulted in the film’s lack of “stylistic flair provided by del Toro in the original” and a story that just isn’t interesting. The review went on to criticize DeKnight’s direction:
“This sequel directed by Steven S. DeKnight (TV’s Daredevil and Spartacus) becomes increasingly tiresome in its cliched plotting and characterizations, hackneyed dialogue and numbingly repetitive, visually incoherent action sequences. There were no less than three editors on the project, and you get the feeling that they weren’t on speaking terms.”
The formulaic nature of the film was called a “paint-by-the-numbers approach” by Variety, which saw how the film set up possible future installment. According to the review, that’s “wishful thinking.” The lack of adventure was one of the aspects honed in on by the critic:
“While Lorne Balfe’s score provides requisite bombast, what resounds loudest about Pacific Rim Uprising is its lack of adventurousness, to the point that it neuters its genre-splicing conceit’s weirdest ideas — such as the metaphysical “drift” that binds the minds of Jaeger pilots, which here serves as just a tossed-off means of dispensing expository backstory.”
Coming off his successful role in the Star Wars universe as Finn, several critics wrote fondly about Boyega in the lead role. Including the Daily News, which wrote:
“Then again, he doesn’t need it. Boyega is the best part of the movie as a scammer turned reluctant hero who struggles in his famous father’s shadow. The young British actor manages a turn that’s more Han Solo than his Star Wars character. Boyega is also a huge upgrade from the morose Charlie Hunnam, who played the hero of the last film.”
Burn Gorman and Charlie Day reprise their roles from the original film and the Uproxx review praises the return of Day’s character Dr. Newt Geiszler. The review goes into details of his story and what the film reveals about his personal life, all of which the reviewer wrote “might be the only reason [he] started to feel favorable toward this movie.
“Charlie Day’s Dr. Newt Geiszler is one of the only returning characters from the first film and, boy, does his character have a plot.”
The most positive review came from The Guardian, which called the film’s plot cohesive. The review praises DeKnight’s version and believes it to be sleeker than the original.
“If anything, Del Toro’s overexcitable ambition muddied the focus, while the sequel plays more like the solidly entertaining A-list B-movie we all wanted the first time. While it shares the hyper-realized, lens flare-filled sheen of the Transformers franchise, DeKnight deserves credit for making the large-scale fight scenes feel remarkably coherent, something Michael Bay struggled to do well.”
Pacific Rim Uprising premieres March 23, 2018.