We humans won the biggest, most terrifying conflict that had ever come our way.
An alien race known as the Precursors somehow ripped open a portal into our world and sent in gargantuan monsters to clear out the earthbound virus that is mankind. It took a great deal of human ingenuity, and the generous application of hard-hitting gigantic mechs called Jaegers (German for hunter), to beat those radioactive Kaiju back.
That all took place 10 years ago. And a decade can feel like a blip or a lifetime depending on your perspective.
Jake Pentacost, for instance, doesn’t even want to think that far back. That’s because he’s had a hard time living up to his father’s reputation: Marshal Stacker Pentecost just happens to be the guy who blew himself up to save the planet by sealing the breach those crafty Kaiju kept crawling through.
Jake would rather leave that legacy and the work of the Pan Pacific Defense Corp behind him. So he survives by scavenging valuable parts from fallen Jaegers that still scatter the landscape. And he squats rent-free in partially demolished estates of the once rich and famous. (I mean, half a mansion is better than a whole-but-grubby apartment, right?)
However, while living this scavenge-and-squat lifestyle, Jake has a chance encounter with a scrappy young woman named Amara. She’s an orphan gearhead who also just happens to be building her own illegal Jaeger—something that the authorities are cracking down on.
Before you know it, both Jake and Amara get snatched up and are given an option: They can apply their skills on the right side of the law or get used to a prison cell. So they head to a PPDC base where Amara can learn the finer points of true Jaeger piloting, and where Jake can reunite with some old friends—like the hard-driving Ranger Nate Lambert—and slip back into that mech-driving role himself.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that Jake is all that happy about the way things have turned out. He figures he’ll just bide his time until he can slip away once more. But during that biding, a rogue Jaeger pops up and starts wreaking deadly havoc. What’s worse, there appears to be a tie between this mech and … the Precursors?
Could there be a nefarious conspiracy afoot? Could humans actually be helping the hated Precursor cause? Could this be round two of the alien invasion?
For that matter, could it be time for another hero named Pentacost to step up and save mankind in its hour of greatest need?
This sequel to director Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 monster masher Pacific Rim delivers another rollicking sci-fi story. This one feels even more like a broad, comic book-like pic as humans once again climb into huge, robot-like mechs and put their lives on the line in heroic, self-sacrificial action. Jake starts off as a rebel, but quickly throws himself into fighting for and saving others when the chips are down.
There are nods to the value of friendship and the honor of military service here, too. Nate points out that the PPDC Rangers are a family, and they stand together as a family, too. And even when family lets you down, you forgive them, he declares.
As Jake gradually rises to the challenge, he likewise encourages Amara to live up to her potential, too, admonishing her not to “let other people define who you are.”
None, really, unless you count as spiritual the fact that someone is essentially “possessed” by a large alien brain organism.
Jake jokes that Nate is “handsome and sexy.” The Ranger cadets share a running joke about one of their number leaving the force and joining his father’s plastic surgery practice to “work with boobs.” Jake clearly finds a Ranger named Jules attractive, a woman with whom Nate already has a relationship. Later, she kisses both men on the cheek before they head into battle as co-pilots of a Jaeger. “That’s confusing,” Jake notes. Elsewhere, we see a male Ranger shirtless.
Someone dons a headset that connects him to someone else’s mind and his expression implies that he’s engaged in a sensual mental interaction.
The core of this film is high-flying action. And that action is fierce, cacophonous and devastating. The story commences with mech-on-mech battles reminiscent of the Transformers movies, with their smashing and explosive rocket-launching bombast. But eventually the Kaiju join the fray, and things once again morph into something more Godzilla-like.
The CGI is top-notch and very realistic as the streets and many skyscrapers of Tokyo get slashed, smashed and shattered with devastating force. This time around, the mighty Jaegers deploy energy weapons in the form of enormous swords, electric whips and the like. They slam through the city causing every bit as much damage as the gargantuan beasties they’re confronting.
After crowds of people make an initial run for shelter, authorities make it clear, however, that the entire civilian population of the ravaged city has been evacuated. The implication? That the massive disaster unfolding onscreen isn’t actually killing scores of innocents as those fragile glass and steel buildings collapse.
That said, some of the Rangers engaged in battle don’t make it out alive. A military base gets struck by exploding missiles. But there is no bloody death portrayed onscreen. The worst we witness is a scene that showcases a wounded Ranger inside a wrecked Jaeger whose uniform is tattered. He looks over at his dead partner, who’s represented by a gloved hand sticking up out of a pile of rubble. At one point Nate is struck by a large object and left lightly bloodied. We also see the radioactive blue goo of the Kaiju leak out from several creatures’ wounds.
Amara flashes back to a painful memory of a Kaiju attack that demolished a pier where she and her family were vacationing when she was a little girl. The mammoth creature’s foot shatters the wooden structure and leaves us with the impression that her loved ones were crushed (though we don’t witness that impact).
Amara and another female cadet engage in a physical tussle. But after a few blows and a body slam, the struggle is brought to a close before either young woman is seriously hurt.
Two s-words and seven or eight uses each of “h—” and “a–” join one or two exclamations each of “d–n,” “b–ch” and “b–tard.” There’s one use of “crappy.” God’s name is misused three times (once in combination with “d–n”).
Cadets manning a Jaeger have the mech perform a crude hand gesture toward a fallen Kaiju.
Nate and Jake have a beer. And a scientist pours himself a tall alcoholic beverage at home.
The heroes squint. The ground shakes. Metal rends. Skyscrapers crumble. And once again poor old Tokyo gets pummeled by gigantic rampaging beasties and mountain-sized robots.
That’s what your movie ticket to Pacific Rim Uprising will get you.
Sure, there’s plenty of well-buffed CGI gleam here. There are valiant heroes and backstabbing villains. There are even wriggling, tentacled alien brains popping up to do some dastardly deeds.
The simple fact is, though, this fast-moving, rock-’em-sock-’em pic is what it is: a matinee creature-feature begging for a tub of butter-soaked popcorn. The only thing that will keep some families and their tykes at bay is a little too much foul language grunted out through a few too many clenched jaws of Jaeger-piloting heroes.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.