Movie Beat: John Boyega deserves a better movie than “Pacific Rim: Uprising”
By Jenniffer Wardell
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language
Written by Steven S. DeKnight, Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, and T.S. Nowlin, based on characters created by Travis Beacham
Directed by Steven S. DeKnight
Starring John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny, Burn Gorman, Charlie Day, Tian Jing, Jin Zhang, Adria Arjona, Rinko Kikuchi and more
Grade: Two stars
Whether you’ll like “Pacific Rim Uprising” depends on why you’re watching the movie in the first place.
If you’re watching for either the robots or John Boyega, you won’t be disappointed. He’s consistently the most interesting part of this sequel to 2013’s “Pacific Rim,” which is notable solely because of Boyega and the fact that it wasn’t directed by newly minted Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro. His absence shows in nearly every other aspect of the movie, from the lack of cohesiveness in the script to the complete lack of anything remotely resembling depth in the script. Yes, the last movie was about fighting robots, but it was also about hope, healing and coming together for a greater purpose. “Uprising” is mostly just about robots.
Admittedly, they’re kind of cool robots. But if you get “Transformers” flashbacks while you’re watching the movie, no one else in the audience will blame you.
After providing a helpful, Boyega-narrated recap of all the necessary backstory, the movie jumps ahead 10 years to a world where the last-ditch jaegers of the previous movie have become a sort of cross between a police force and military unit. Boyega’s character, Jake Pentecost (son of Idris Elba’s character from the last movie), is a charming criminal who gets sucked back into the jaeger force rather than go to prison. Throw in a whole bunch of tiny cadets, including a mechanic who they give the world’s best opening to and then only manage to follow up on, and you basically have the movie.
Oh, wait, you need an actual plot. I don’t want to spoil too much, because the specific nature of what happens is genuinely one of the few things I hadn’t managed to anticipate, but I will say that it’s not the movie the trailers make it out to be. Anyone who was emotionally invested in the characters from the first movie probably won’t be too thrilled with some of the plot elements, but there are some nice moments, some decent fight scenes, and a solid amount of humor.
One thing it doesn’t have, sadly, is any kind of real plot arc. “Uprising” feels almost episodic, possibly because co-writer and director Steven S. DeKnight has only previously written television episodes. What we see onscreen feels like a pilot to some kind of “Pacific Rim” television series, a filler episode meant to air somewhere in the middle of the season, and the season finale.
And poor, poor John Boyega is too good for all of it. Someone in Hollywood needs to start giving this man more movies that are actually well-written, because it’s a waste putting all that charisma in a mediocre clunker of a movie like this. He made Jake’s relationship with his adopted sister one of the best, most believable things about the movie, despite the fact that we only got to see about 10 minutes of it, and he single-handedly saved every single one of Scott Eastwood’s scenes.
I can only imagine what he could have done with a better movie.
(Photo © Universal)