Action-packed and impressively stupid, “Pacific Rim: Uprising” is essentially a Chinese sequel to the original, more Asian outreach from the studio that brought you “The Great Wall.”
It’s got a British lead, an international (no name) cast, and a few Americans in supporting roles. Heck, it’s got an Eastwood! And the funniest product placement in any action film this year.
But whatever the foot soldiers are up to in those Transformers-sized fighting machines, it’s the Chinese who are calling the shots, pulling the strings and underwriting the defense of the titular hemisphere they call their own.
Cinematic acceptance of the inevitable?
It’s an expensive sink-hole of a movie — packed with exposition, even though we’ve already been introduced to the monsters (Kaiju) invading Earth through rifts between dimensions, the Jaeger human-operated robot-warriors built to fight them, and the world of Chinese tech, vast Chinese wealth and assorted Asian cities destroyed when they’re turned into battle zones.
John Boyega, who broke out in the British street kids fight aliens sleeper “Attack the Block” and became a star in the new “Star Wars” saga, is Jake, son of the Jaeger fighter (Idris Elba) who died saving the world in “Pacific Rim.” The kid’s a hustler, a Jaeger washout and a screw-up who can only be redeemed when the Kauji (dinosaur monsters) return — with their own version of Jaegers.
He has to team up with Nate (Scott Eastwood) in one of those two-man robots at some point. First, he’s got to help train new young recruits, especially his kindred spirit — the requisite “plucky young girl” (Cailee Spaeny), a street urchin who builds mini-Jaegers out of a world littered with Jaeger spare parts.
Ten years of peace have seen seen scientists Newt (Charlie Day) and Gottleib (Burn Gorman) thrive — one in the private sector, working for Shao Industries and its imperious, sexy clothes horse leader (Tian Jian of “The Great Wall”), the other running tech for the Pan Pacific Defense Corps.
And then the monsters return, seemingly with evolved robot fighters of their own.
The picture plays out simply — exposition-exposition-exposition, then fight-chase-fight fight, pause for noble sacrifice or remembering an earlier death, pithy one-liner, then exposition-exposition-exposition again, etc.
“He might take the stick out’a his butt and BEAT you with it!”
There will be betrayals, battles that test everyone’s mettle in the metal. Amara (Spaeny), will go all fan-girl at seeing her favorite Jaegers — “Titan Redeemer!” “Sabre Athena!” “Gypsy Avenger!”
Just keep in mind the guiding principle at work here. Everything’s designed to make China and “the Chinese way” — order is paramount, cooperation and discipline and following orders without — look good.
Chinese villains? We may never see them in another movie. Even if there’s a trade war.
As for the players running and punching in front of all those green screens, the girl is ho-hum, Boyega fights back the boredom, Jing is heroically chilly.
Eastwood? Somebody finance a “Birth of the Spaghetti Western” movie about how his dad became a star. Scott looks and sounds more like the Old Man every day, and that’s a movie — Clint, heading to Spain to work for a bunch of cheapskate Italians he’d never heard of — I’d pay to see.
“Pacific Rim: Uprising?” Not worth it. Not even in 3D.
Nah, I wasn’t nuts about the first film, either.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language
Cast: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny, Tian Jing, Rinko Kikuchi, Jim Zhang, Burn Gorman, Charlie Day
Credits:Directed by Steven S. DeKnight, script by Steven S. DeKnight, Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, T.S. Nowlin . A Universal release.
Running time: 1:50