I remember watching the first Pacific Rim a while back and enjoying the concept of Kaiju vs Robots. The film had a relatively low budget so you couldn’t see large portions of the fight since it was at night but the whole thing was pretty epic. It was a solid film and I was certainly ready for the sequel. This film looked to increase the action based on the trailers so I was definitely all for that. It’s a solid sequel and one that almost matches the original film.
It takes place 10 years after the first film where the heroes closed the rift and saved the world. The world is ready to move on to automated drones so it appears like the pilots are about to be phased out. Are drones really a practical alternative though? They seem to turn evil in every sci-fi film. Meanwhile, we have our new main character. His Dad may have been leading the charge against the enemy but this guy just wants to have a bunch of parties and stay out of the action. Unfortunately he attempts to follow a thief so that he can steal the stolen items but he is apprehended by the cops and forced back into the program. A dark Jaeger appears at the summit he is supposed to protect and this begins the most climactic fight of his life. Can our heroes save the world one last time?
The action definitely lived up to the marketing which is nice. All of the fights take place during the day so there are no shortcuts like having most to obscure the robots. The two battles between Gypsy Avenger and the evil robot are excellent. Even if Gypsy does seem outmatched when it comes to the mechs, the humans know actual hand to hand combat which is finally important. After all, you would expect that to give you a big advantage in a fight right? Martial arts amp up your normal attacks so why it when inside a mech suit? The climax battle is great as well with the 4 Jaegers against the 3 Kaiju. Admittedly the Kaiju don’t look nearly as impressive as in the first film and only one of them appears to be able to fight back.
Still, they do get to roar quite a bit and I can always get behind that. Being able to absorb kinetic energy is always a great ability as well. Either way, the action scenes are definitely the highlight here and remind you of exactly why we needed a new Pacific Rim. I also do find it ironic that the Jaegers seem so much more streamlined and efficient then the Transformers. The Jaegers can still be a little slow at times, but they can maneuver through right windows and have a good array of abilities. They are really only limited by the pilots. Unlike the Transformers they aren’t constantly tripping or falling over. Granted, they can be knocked down rather easily by the Kaiju, but they get right back up.
The soundtrack isn’t bad but it isn’t memorable either. It won’t be one of the things that you will be talking about as you exit the theater but the visuals and loud sound effects help to mitigate this. I never count a lack of a soundtrack as a negative that would affect the score either unless it is painfully bad to listen too. Now it’s time to talk about the writing. Well, it’s certainly not great but it isn’t bad either. The dialogue could certainly be a lot worse and while the characters are rather generic they are written reasonably well. It’s definitely still night and day when compared to Transformers.
I’d say that the only scene where you will be cringing a lot is when the main character heads to the kitchen to have Ice Cream. He is extremely unhygienic which makes it gross rather than amusing. He eats from the ice cream bowl and puts his hand in the sprinkle jar. I feel bad for anyone else who enjoys the ice cream in this place. Surprisingly there aren’t too many over the top scenes like that which I was definitely glad about. There is a random subplot where one of the cadets is being mean to Amara and that was unnecessary, but not badly handled. If anything, the bully suddenly becoming nicer was rather rushed, but I guess getting beaten and forced into a choke hold by a little kid in front of everyone may have helped to crush her ego a bit.
Jake is a decent main character. He’s rather annoying at first as you can’t sympathize with him though. He doesn’t even need to steal or be a crook but just does it for the extra money. The whole currency exchange that he had going seemed rather illogical so maybe he just spent all of his money. Either way, he doesn’t get good until after the first showdown with the enemy. Then he finally wisens up to the fact that he needs to get it in gear and actually start fighting as opposed to constantly complaining and whining. You can probably tell that I’m not a huge fan of the guy so maybe saying that he is a decent character is a mild stretch. He is a lot better in the second half though so that helps to nage the opening at least a bit.
Then we have Nate who is Jake’s co-pilot and he is all over the place as well. He gives Jake an incredibly hard time throughout the film, but will also occasionally let it be known that he thinks Jake could be one of the greats. By the end of the film they are old pals again and the tension just seemed rather fake. Of course, I am on Nate’s side here since Jake did apparently abandon him for no good reason and then his next partner also abandoned him so it’s been a tough time for that guy.
Amara is essentially the kid from the recent Transformers film except 100x better. Instead of just talking tough and getting in everyone’s way, Amara is actually very capable on her own. She built her own Jaeger which is extremely impressive. I can’t give her enough credit for that because it must have taken a very long time so she was persistent and also had the skills to break into a government restricted area. Yes, you have to suspend your disbelief for a lot of the film, but what else is new? She sort of vanishes for a good chunk of the film, but returns in time to help for the climax. She’s not perfect, but Amara is probably the most reasonable character in the film and maybe will be the one that you can sympathize with the most. While everyone else is playing defense she is preparing for the next battle.
Then we have some returning characters from the first film like Newt. His interface with an alien was rather weird and pretty iffy at best, but aside from that one scene he is definitely a strong character. He delivers most of the snappy one liners and really doesn’t care about anyone, but himself. You can’t help but admire his self confidence and the fact that he is always the biggest person in the room. (When it comes to ego anyway) He’s an exaggerated character, but in a good way and his humor tends to land a lot more than the other characters. There is also Hermann who is basically the more stoic
boring counterpart who uses his tech to help the world. He’s cool and all I guess, but you just can’t picture him putting up much of a fight compared to Newt.
Then we also have Liwen who is the head of corporate and feels like an antagonist in this film because of her ideals. She wants to use her drones to make the world a safer place where pilots aren’t constantly dying. They are now safe away from the dangers. It mirrors the real world issues of drones as they are safer for the pilots, but also bring with them a ton of security risks like the fact that they can be hacked or malfunctioned. They aren’t a complete substitute for normal Jaegers and Liwen tries to make this point, but the other characters basically just yell at her the whole time to drown out her points. Yes, I’m on Liwen’s side here. Apparently in 10 years we were only able to build a small handful of Jaegers to defend the main base and the UN Summit while she built hundreds of them in the same time frame. I think it’s obvious which ones are more efficient and they also seemed fairly strong if you ask me. Again, we do need a blend of both, but if we really want to win a war with the aliens then Liwen is the world’s only chance.
Finally, Mako also appears in the film for a bit as a guest star and she’s a cool character as always. Mako’s intelligence is given a lot of credit here as she is able to spot key facts about the enemy in an instant. While her role was small, it was important and she had a more lasting impact than many of the other characters. Does anybody actually remember the names of any of the Cadets? Those guys never got any real development (Which is a good thing if you ask me) and were just around so we could have more Jaegers. Development just wastes time if it’s used on too many characters, but that’s why Mako is good since she already had her character development in the first film and here you got to understand her character in a flash. Maybe a third film could flesh out the other pilots, but again…that’s unnecessary. Lets stick to the fighting.
You’ll never get bored during the film because it’s just very exciting. At times the film goes a little too overboard in trying to show how hopeless it is for humanity though. There are some points where it should really be all over for them, but the villains have mercy or don’t make the right moves. When the mini robots came swarming in they could have easily destroyed the Jaegers by going inside the circuits or something like that. It’s always a very annoying strategy by the villains, but it works. Why didn’t the evil Gypsy blast the 3 robot reinforcements who were being carried over? They were sitting ducks while landing so he could blast them or just stab all of their processors. Why did the villain just wait by his lonesome in the arctic for a fair 1 on 1 fight when he could have lured the heroes somewhere else? If he hadn’t been in the arctic then the heroes would have been absolutely lost.
Of course, the arctic fight was one of the best scenes in the film. Second only to the first fight so I am glad that the battle happened. I know that the whole point of these films is Robots against Monsters so I should be glad that we still get those at the very end, but honestly that robot fights were the best part. This is why I would love a Gundam film at some point with a proper budget. I don’t know why but Transformers just never has good fight scenes like the Pacific Rim films. Perhaps it is the terrible designs or the fact that most of the Transformer robots just punch each other instead of mixing it up with lasers and cannons, but the fights in Rim are a lot more satisfying. I’m starting to get off topic though.
I may give Pacific Rim 1 the slight edge overall, but it is extremely close. The more I think about it, the more the second film may have the slight edge, but it’s been a while since I saw the first movie. Rim 2 isn’t the greatest movie of the year and likely will have a tough time getting the 2nd spot, but I’d wager that it will still end up being one of the better films this year. If not top 5 then certainly top 10. It just doesn’t really make any big mistakes while doing a lot of things right like the action scenes. No animal violence, no excessive violence, the language was a lot more restrained than in other films, etc. It’s just a solid all around movie.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot to actually talk about the monsters all that much, but in my defense the film barely shows them either. They’re basically just a footnote in this movie as they exist just to get squashed and beaten up. They don’t seem to have much intelligence compared to the older monsters and aren’t even much of a threat next to dark Gypsy. This will be sad for big Kaiju fans, but at least we have the Godzilla films coming up. The monsters have good designs and the fight is cool so I’ll give them that.
Overall, if you haven’t watched Pacific Rim Uprising yet then I think it is time to fix that. The fight scenes here are very good and are easily the best giant robot fights we have seen in live action. That might be a low bar, but that’s not to say that these fights were not impressive under any criteria. They really did a good job of capturing how well these robots can fight. While they may need more firepower to really tack on the damage to someone like Godzilla, they should be prepared for any monster that the aliens have in store for them. The ending will definitely get you hyped for a possible third film.