Pacific Rim: Uprising – A Sequel Better than Its Predecessor that Could Not Work Without It

Note: I’l be talking a lot about the first Pacific Rim. I will clearly notate Pacific Rim 2 if talking about 2.

I’m a fanboy of a lot of the ingredients in the stew that is Pacific Rim – Mech, monsters, campy sci-fi action-adventure – but the first movie has always left a bad taste in my mouth (to keep the stew analogy). For a movie designed for my tastes, Pacific Rim is barely fun for me. The uninspired mech design and bad casting set it back for me (they had to cast only the boring white people?). Guillermo Del Toro can do monster design like nobody else, but his lack of imagination with the robots was apparent.

Bow down to the king, everyone. This is Gundam from Ready Player One, which in the half a second that its shown in the RPO trailer, it is already more exhilarating than anything Pacific Rim has given us.

I can’t say that I don’t leave it on whenever I scroll past it on TV (Hell, I was watching it before I watched Pacific Rim 2). Still, it’s a movie that, in some ways, I wish didn’t exist. I love movies with mech, monsters, and all the aforementioned, but it has to be good or else you just wasted one of our bullets. I think a lot about the diminishing appeal of failed properties, like I had talked about in my Tomb Raider movie review. How many Spider Man (or any other property) movies until we give up and stop showing up? And how many failures until the studios simply stop making them?  If you’re gong to give us a mech movie, make it count. I don’t feel Pacific Rim was what it needed to be to make it count. (note: on an artistic level. The movie obviously did well enough to warrant a sequel).

Pacific Rim 2 is a better movie in every way, and I’d even go as far as to say it’s a very good movie, but only because of its predecessor. Certainly that’s true of any sequel to a degree, and it’s not as if you can’t watch this without having seen the first, but what makes the meaningful moments of the film actually feel meaningful has less to do with what we’ve seen on screen, and more to do with knowing the history of the first film. The first movie never felt especially emotionally resonant, for example when Charlie Hunnam’s Raleigh Becket loses his father (brother?), we know this is, and should be, sad, but do we actually feel it? No. Pacific Rim 2 keys into emotion in a much more effective way, but I think a lot of that does come from the relationships from the first.I can’t say that’s a bad thing, or a knock on the movie, and I’d be interested to see the opinion of someone who had never seen the first.

I dipped my toe into calling it a “very good movie,” which I hesitate to completely dive into. There are issues, personal taste aside (I thought the mech design was even less inspired, but its’ amazing how much good story and acting counteracts that, though they are unrelated qualities). The movie is spread a little thin across its main characters. I actually think it could use an additional 20 or 30 minutes, but even in saying that, it doesn’t need it. That extra 20 minutes might add some welcome depth to some of the characters, but it’s not as if that would put the movie in the Oscar running. Ultimately, I think the genre/style of the movie allows for some rushed elements. We just want to see the fights with enough emotional backup to care about the outcome.

This one is an easy movie to decipher. If you liked the first one, you’re going to like this one. I don’t see how you couldn’t.

If you’ve never seen either movie, and this seems like your kind of thing, start with the first and move up from there.

If you’ve never seen either movie, and you’re in any way hesitant, I’d start with Pacific Rim 2 or I fear you may never give it a chance after seeing the first.

I also wanted to mention that this has been a great year for women in film. Cailee Spaeny who plays Amara Namani (awesome name) and Tian Jing who plays Liwen Shao will have little girls wanting to jump in a mech and pilot one themselves. So take your daughters, step daughters, cousins – whoever – to see this movie! I’m glad we’re slowly getting past strong female characters whose main obstacle is their womanhood. Both Spaeny and Jing play strong women whose judgement is never questioned (at least not for their gender). Stories that deal specifically with gender are important, but equally as important is seeing women in robust roles traditionally held for men without questioning it. I’m excited to see Cailee Spaeny’s next projects, as she was surprisingly great (only because I hadn’t heard of her prior to this).


I have a lot more thoughts about this movie, but honestly, no one’s paying me for this so 800 words sounds about good lol. Thanks for reading!

Follow me on Twitter @joecabello
My podcast, The Joe Cabello Show comes out Wednesday on Itunes and Soundcloud.

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