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Pacific Rim: Uprising

Year: 2017
Studio: Universal
Director: Steven S DeKnight
Writer: Steven S DeKnight/Emily Carmichael/Kira Snyder/T S Nowlin
Cast: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Rinko Kikuchi, Cailee Spaeny, Burn Gorman, Charlie Day

This film is very much the big studio version of what Guillermo Del Toro's version of it would be. The original Pacific Rim barely qualified as a Del Toro jam, scenes and characters like that of Ron Perlman and his alien organ shop the only real flourishes that identified the movie as having anything to do with him, the rest of it indivisible from the kind of thing Michael Bay would do with the same material.

This is the same thing again, only without even those few distinctive Del Toro trappings that made it through Warner Bros' blockbuster marketing committee. The original put character cliches together with a pretty hackneyed script, and this movie does the same. The heroes are outsider rebels (as every hero in a Hollywood movie depicting a formal military structure must be), and before the main hero Jake (John Boyega) unmasks the scavenger muscling in on his mercenary black market robot parts business, you just know it's going to be a streetsmart teenage girl – which it is.

Jake, son of the original film's senior Jaeger officer Stacker (Idris Elba), was once one of the best Jaeger pilots in the forces along with friend and partner Nate, the upstanding military guy hero 101 (Scott Eastwood). But when we meet him he's gone rogue, living in the ruins of California following the first kaiju war, swapping an Oscar swiped from a house for breakfast ceral and selling parts purloined from abandoned Jaeger scrapyards.

One of his standard double crosses against a team of greedy scumbags while selling a power source is interrupted by Amara (Cailee Spaeny), who he chases down. But you just know they're going to become inseparable friends, and they do so right in time for a new kaiju threat. Now in charge of the Jaeger forces, Stacker's acolyte and erstwhile daughter Mako (Rinko Kikuchi), is tracking a new threat following the sealing of the portal deep in the Pacific Ocean years before.

Hermann (Burn Gorman) is stil in the picture trying to figure out the new readings, but Newton (Charlie Day) is now a high level executive for a military hardware company developing drone Jaegers that will put the existing fleet out of business.

Jake rejoins the fight and agrees to train Amara and a new cadre of cadets, and while defending Sydney against a kaiju attack a rogue Jaeger attacks them both, and the race is on to see who's developed their own apparently superior Jaeger program.

That's a much longer description of the plot than I thought I'd write for this review, which makes me realise that it does more stuff with more characters than most brainless action adventure movies do. That doesn't mean the things it does with them are exactly groundbreaking – the characterisations are very corny and the dialogue action blockbuster-level, and it's all just connective tissue to lead to the next city levelling smash-em-up.

But lest you think I spent the film rolling my eyes and groaning while waiting for it all to end, director Steven S DeKnight and his art and CGI departments manage a sense of spectacle that's just as impressive as in the first movie. Even in an era of Transformers, dinosaurs and other larger than life beasts, the final fight set in Tokyo between three Jaegers and one mega-kaiju is a big screen sight to behold.

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