Pacific Rim Uprising

After Jaeger Marshal Stacker Pentecost gave his life closing the breach which allowed Kaiju to attack coastal cities, his once promising Jaeger pilot son Jake (John Boyega) got caught up in a criminal black market. He's pulled back into action by his sister Mako Mori (Rinku Kikuchi) when an even more dire threat emerges in "Pacific Rim Uprising."

Laura's Review: C+

Five years ago, Guillermo del Toro's "Pacific Rim" looked liked it was going to be a spin on the "Transformers" franchise, then delighted when it was not. Five years later, the sequel from cowriter (with Emily Carmichael and Kira Snyder)/director Steven S. DeKnight (TV's 'Angel') barely skirts that distinction with too much motion blur and a mind numbingly loud soundtrack. There are a couple of noteworthy set pieces, both involving the (very Transformers-like) Scrapper, an unregistered small scale Jaeger hacked together by this film's newcomer Cailee Spaeny as the spunky 15 year-old Amara Namani. This film is obviously intended to reboot the franchise, but it is the type of movie that will be forgotten in a week. DeKnight drops us right into fast-paced action and never lets up on the gas pedal, rarely giving his film a chance to breath. It's ten years since Idris Elba's Pentecost saved the world and now his son squats in a mansion, an enormous Kaiju skeleton gracing its perimeter. He's involved in the illegal Jaeger parts trade, which leads him into the garage where Amara stores Scrapper, the two strangers joining in an escape from a Pan Pacific Defense Corps (PPDC) Jaeger cop. When they're caught and arrested, Mako Mori offers Jake a deal - all charges against him will be dropped if he agrees to become a Ranger training cadets at the Moyulan Shatterdome in China. Given her talent in building and operating her one-pilot Scrapper, Amara's offered cadet training. Ranger Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood, "The Fate of the Furious"), Jake's old partner, is disparaging but forgiving, urging everyone to focus on the job at hand. Amara has trouble conforming to the 'drift,' the mind melding, two-pilot method needed to operate one of the skyrise-high Jaegers and gets flack from Cadet Viktoria (Ivanna Sakhno), but bigger problems arise when Jake and Nate are sent to Sydney to pilot Gipsy Danger at the unveiling of CEO of Shao industries Liwen Shao's (Tian Jing, "The Great Wall") new remotely controlled drone Jaegers, the event disrupted by rogue Jaeger Obsidian Fury in a city destroying rout which downs Mori's helicopter, killing her. Working on a tip decoded from Mori's last message, the two work to unveil the sinister plot at hand. Of course, it's not too long before breaches are reopened and the Kaiju emerge once again. DeKnight's reboot spends too much time on pyrotechnics and not enough on logic and characterization. We have no sense as to why, as it is eventually revealed, the Kaiju are intent on destroying the world in which they, themselves, live. Where del Toro spend considerable time on the psychological hurdles and impact of drifting, this film throws together pilots who haven't worked together in years if at all with little consequence. He does use sleight of hand, a red herring distracting from the source of evil intent, a plot thread taken from the prior film, but it doesn't add up to enough to care about. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman join Kikuchi as the only returning players, Dr. Newton Geiszler and Dr. Hermann Gottlieb providing awkwardly staged comic relief. Boyega is fine in the lead, an immoral rebel with a healthy ego who finds his true purpose. The petite Spaeny has an Ellen Page-like quality of intelligent pluck. But Chinese stars and Asian locations paint this as another Hollywood 'blockbuster' aimed at the Chinese market, its fortunes in the U.S. of lesser consequence. Grade:

Robin's Review: DNS