[Screen It]


(2018) (John Boyega, Scott Eastwood) (PG-13)

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Sci-Fi Action: Humans pilot giant robots named Jaegers to defend Earth against giant monsters that bring apocalyptic destruction to our planet.
It has been 10 years since humanity won the war against the Kaiju monsters that attacked Earth, but some of the world's cities still lie in ruins. Amid those ruins, Jake Pentecost (JOHN BOYEGA) makes a living as a scavenger who raids old battle zones and military bases for parts of the Jaeger super-robots that humans piloted to defeat the extraterrestrial beasts. He meets teenager Amara (CAILEE SPAENY), an orphaned scavenger who has been swiping parts to build her own Jaeger so she won't have to rely on others to save her when the Kaiju return.

They are both apprehended by authorities. Jake is saved from serving prison time, though, by his half-sister, Mako Mori (RINKO KIKUCHI). Mako was one of the heroes of the great war, and she is now high up in the government. Jake is given a choice. Go to jail or rejoin the military and live up to his late, legendary father's legacy. He chooses the latter and is told that one of the young people he will be training to become a Jaeger pilot is Amara.

Once back on base, he renews his rivalry with fellow Jaeger pilot Nate Lambert (SCOTT EASTWOOD). Meanwhile, Amara tries to fit in with her fellow cadets who include a hard-edged Russian named Viktoria (IVANNA SAKHNO) and the helpful Jinhai (WESLEY WONG). Their efforts may all be for naught as Dr. Newton Geiszler (CHARLIE DAY) and his boss, Liwen Shao (TIAN JING), threaten to replace the human-controlled Jaeger program with a drone version. Newton's colleague, Dr. Hermann Gottlieb (BURN GORMAN), suspects there is something more at play. It is soon learned that a traitor is indeed in their midst, one who hopes to re-summon the Kaiju to destroy Earth.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
"Pacific Rim: Uprising" has a lot of the charm and fun that has been lacking in recent movies featuring King Kong, Godzilla, and the Transformers. It's basically a mash-up of monsters and giant robots movie, and it doesn't even make any attempt at profundity or even narrative logic. If there is one criticism I have is that it takes just a bit too long to get the giant robots (known as Jaegers in this franchise) fighting the giant monsters (known as Kaiju) in this one. But it's 20 minutes shorter than the original "Pacific Rim" from 2013, and the pace is such that you just give yourself over to the popcorn experience and wait patiently for the rampant destruction.

The sequel is set 10 years after the original. Idris Elba's great Commander Pentecost is long since dead, and his son Jake (John Boyega of the new "Star Wars" sequels), carries on. No, not the old man's legacy. He wants none of that. He quit cadet school for a life of petty crime, stealing old parts of decommissioned Jaegers and selling them on the black market. When he runs afoul of a teenage scavenger named Amara (Cailee Spaeny) who has built her own Jaeger for when the monsters come back, the two are arrested and given a choice. Either go to jail or join the cadet core and train as Jaeger pilots courtesy of Jake's half-sister, Mako (Rinko Kikuchi), who was one of the heroes of the first film.

They choose the latter, of course, and Jake is immediately made an instructor. Back on base, he rekindles his bromance rivalry with the hunky Nate (Scott Eastwood) just in time for the two to fight a new menace. A traitor amongst them has reprogrammed their drone replacement Jaegers and is looking to reopen the breach that allowed the Kaiju to attack Earth in the first place. Of course, it's not long before the cadets remain as the only ones who can pilot the Jaegers against the new alien threat.

The film is the ultimate 12-year-old boy's wish list fantasy. But I am being too narrow in describing its appeal. There were plenty of twenty- and thirty-somethings around me at my recent preview screening who came in with a list of demands that the filmmakers had to get right in order for them to give their geek seal of approval. Judging by the applause afterward from the younger of the devoted fandom, this hit the bull's eye with Generation Z eh, maybe not so much with the millennials. Gen X and baby boomers? You're on your own.

Kikuchi is a welcome holdover from the first film, as is the exceedingly hyper Charlie Day here reprising his role as a scientist who helped save the world the first time, only now to be possessed by an alien intelligence. Gone are Elba and Charlie Hunnam. They're not really missed. I mean, Hunnam isn't even really missed when he leaves his own home. Boyega, meanwhile, steps forward as a hero who can carry a flick on his own. And with Eastwood, you can't help scanning every camera angle director Steven S. DeKnight chooses to see where he looks more like his ol' dad Clint and where he doesn't. Man, when he squints and the lighting on the beard stubble is just so does he look like Dirty Harry back in the day!

So, yes. "Pacific Rim: Uprising" is a mindless delight. But it is a delight for audience members who love this kind of junk-food cinema. I give it a 5.5 out of 10. (T. Durgin)

Reviewed March 20, 2018 / Posted May 22, 2018

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