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American films

Pacific Rim: Uprising film review – John Boyega kills it as robot-pilot in monster-mashing sequel

Chinese actress Jing Tian impresses, the Asian settings aren’t just bolted on for fans in China and director Steven S. DeKnight’s shows restraint; the energetic performance by Star Wars’ Boyega in a Jaegar role sets up a third instalment

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 March, 2018, 8:03am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 March, 2018, 8:03am

3/5 stars

Pacific Rim: Uprising reunites us with the world of Jaegers and Kaiju, last seen in Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 blockbuster. Set a decade after humans using giant ‘Jaeger’ robots defeated huge monsters from the deep, incoming director Steven S. DeKnight (Daredevil) focuses on a new generation of characters.

John Boyega, fresh from the Star Wars universe, plays Jake Pentecost, son to Idris Elba’s Jaeger pilot Stacker, who sacrificed himself to save humanity in the first film. Jake is less about heroism and more about scavenging for Jaeger tech, and selling it in the black market. But after an encounter with wannabe Jaeger pilot Amara (Cailee Spaeny) lands him in trouble, he’s forced to teach at the Pan Pacific Defence Corps (PPDC) under the watchful eye of Scott Eastwood’s square-jawed hero-in-waiting.

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What about the Kaiju? Well, suffice to say, these mega-creatures make a return, although the script smartly engineers their arrival. Old characters Dr. Newton Geisler (Charlie Day) and Dr. Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) are not forgotten, either.

Del Toro’s film was too reliant on monster-mashing carnage, and credit DeKnight for holding back on the citywide destruction. When it comes, Tokyo suffers a crushing that leaves you yearning to watch an old Godzilla movie. With Jake’s “half-sister” Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) making a return too, there’s also an impressive performance from Chinese actress Jing Tian, who plays the head of a corporation controversially bringing in Jaeger drones.

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For once, the pan-Asian settings feel organic to the story and not simply a means to appeal to the Chinese market. But some issues do grate. Lorne Balfe’s score is derivative of Daft Punk’s music for Tron: Legacy , and the persistent cutting to Amara and her trials at the PPDC has the annoying feel of a bad young-adult movie like Ender’s Game.

Boyega, though, injects real energy into the film. With him at the controls of a Jaeger, this adolescent franchise can likely survive a third outing.

Pacific Rim: Uprising opens on March 29

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