Thanks to Universal Pictures Australia we had the chance to see Steven S. DeKnight’s, Pacific Rim: Uprising before its Australian cinematic release. This is our review of the movie, but as usual, no matter what we say, we still recommend you to go and see it at your local cinema because there is no better critic than yourself!

2013’s Pacific Rim was the stuff of dreams for monster and robot movie enthusiasts the world over. It was the film the fans deserved, having been blighted with the Transformers films to that point or, as we now like to refer to them; ‘Bay’s Tales of Vehicular Assault on the Memories of our Childhood’ (it’s a working title).

And while it was a rip-snorting, snarling beast of a monster movie, it was not without it’s faults. Despite being helmed by expert storyteller, Guillermo Del Toro, it felt clunky and almost as if the director had tried to cram all the years worth of ideas into two hours. It meant that, as impressive as the film was, the pace of the story left a lot to be desired.

It also lacked likeable characters, bar the gutsy, enigmatic and galvanising Marshal Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), who uttered one of the most rousing troop speeches since Bill Pullman in the original Independence Day. But that was it – the rest were so bland that the audience started rooting for the monsters to squish them, freeing them from the crushing boredom of their lives.

The lack of character appeal and jarring storyline, were likely the culprits in a relatively poor box office performance returning only $101m (USD) domestically, given the film had a price tag of $190m (USD). The franchise was saved by the performance worldwide, where it grossed $411m (USD) – a significant portion of which came from Asian audiences.

And we’re glad it was – the world deserved this sequel.

Pacific Rim: Uprising takes place 10 years after the first, with new young cast, spearheaded by the charismatic Star Wars alum, John Boyega, who plays the son of Stacker Pentecoste (Idris Elba). He’s one of the many trying to find his way in a post-Kaiju world; a Jaeger cadet dropout living in a half-trashed mansion and making money selling scraps left over form the war. He’s joined by Amara Namani (newcomer Cailee Spaeny) who is in the process of building her own Jaeger, fearing the Kaiju’s return.

Her antics land them on the radar of Pentecoste’s sister Mako, (played once again by Rinko Kikuchi), who offers her brother a choice – return to the core or go to prison. He makes the obvious choice and just in time.

During the decade of peace, the Pan Pacific Defence Core has been busy developing automated droids designed to eliminate the need for two human operators that are ‘drift’ compatible. When launching in Sydney, a rogue Jaeger attacks and leads the PPDC into an ambush as the new drones turn on their masters, decimating the Jaeger core and opening the breach for the return of the Kaiju.

With the fate of the world in their hands, the remaining core members including, Boyega and Spaeny‘s characters, must work together to save the world.

At the helm for the sequel was debutant feature director Steven S. DeKnight who’s worked on TV series Daredevil and Spartacus (Del Toro was off making a little known film called The Shape of Water – perhaps you’ve heard of it). Whilst some may have doubted his ability to transition for the small screen to the big, it’s the polar opposite. Using his experience telling stories over a shorter period, DeKnight manages to fix the flow of this sequel and creates a well-paced monster movie with bite. DeKnight has stayed true to the original feel but has made the Pacific Rim universe bigger and better – creating a movie that is monstrously good fun. Not bad for his first time.

He’s aided by a cast and performances that are interesting and make the audience invest in the characters.

It’s rare for a sequel to surpass the original but as the director recently told us in an interview ‘it’s not quite a sequel not quite a reboot – it’s something in the middle’. Having seen the movie, we understand what he means.

Whilst the story continues from the first, and has many similarities and develops the Pacific Rim universe, this is its own movie and arguably a better one than the first.

Pacific Rim: Uprising – In Cinemas March 22

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