Pacific Rim: Uprising repeats the formula introduced in Guillermo del Toro's 2013 robots-fighting-monsters blockbuster, only it does everything much worse.
The first film wasn't terribly original — it fused old Japanese monster-movie action onto all the dramatic cliches of 1950s war pictures — and its main characters may as well have been cardboard standees. But it was at least driven by its maker's mad vision and impeccable sense of visual wit; this sequel, from first-time feature director Steven S. DeKnight, feels like a dull facsimile.
Uprising picks up 10 years after the war between Jaegers (giant human-operated robots) and Kaiju (giant sea monsters) has ended. It stars the charismatic John Boyega as Stacker Pentecost (yes, that's the character's actual name, and yes, he's the son of Idris Elba's character from the first film), a scrap collector who — stop me if you've heard this one before — is recruited as a cocksure military commander but is haunted by the legacy of his father.
Enter a Chinese corporation that wants to implement Jaeger drones, therefore eliminating the need for onboard pilots (don't look for any real world commentary), and some powerful Jaeger-Kaiju hybrids that emerge from the ocean and set their beady eyes on the magical Earth elements at the core of Mt. Fuji.
Of course, there are big, noisy fights, with lumbering pieces of machinery toppling entire cityscapes. Been there, done that. But what's so unusual about Uprising is that it feels simultaneously endless and weirdly truncated: It ends abruptly and awkwardly, and not a moment too soon.
During one of those battles, Stacker takes a pratfall in his skyscraper-tall Jaeger suit and quips, "That was supposed to be epic, but it wasn't." Sometimes movies write their own reviews. (RATED PG-13)