Years after the Kaiju War has ended, Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), son of Stacker Pentecost, is living a carefree existence when he's drawn back into the Pan-Pacific Defence Corps by a young mechanic (Adria Anjona) and his former colleague, Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood), to help defeat a rogue Jaeger and the looming threat of another invasion by the monstrous Kaiju.
Pacific Rim came to the screen with a certain amount of expectation laden across its armoured shoulders, namely that it was directed by the now-Oscar winning Guillermo del Toro and all that that entailed. While that filmed work as a diverting enough experience, it didn't necessarily set the world on fire and was saved in large part by a strong foreign box office. It made sense, in a way. Pacific Rim had huge anime influences, particularly Neon Genesis Evangelion and Mobile Suit Gundam, and here in the sequel, these have been turned up to 11 to account for that.
The film opens with a quick recap of the Pacific Rim-iverse and gives us all the helpful pointers you'll need to navigate the story - basically, kaijus are big, jaegers are giant robots controlled by humans to fight kaijus, and they're now gone while the world waits for them to return. Oh, and there's an alien race called the Precusors who control said kaiju. This kind of pulpy plotting seemed in stark contrast to del Toro's oeuvre, but it's perfectly in keeping with director / writer Steven DeKnight, who cut his teeth working on Buffy The Vampire Slayer and the first season of Marvel's Daredevil. Moreover, DeKnight has a far tighter grip on what works and what doesn't, dropping off the giant kaiju monsters and favouring the jaeger-on-jaeger action instead.
As you'd expect, the acting talent is secondary, but John Boyega's performance as Jake Pentecost calls to mind the affable charm of '90s Will Smith and lights up the screen whenever he's given the chance. Paired with him is the scrappy teenager Adria Arjona, who's built a smaller Jaeger - affectionately named Scrapper - all by herself, whilst Scott Eastwood's jawline steps in between them as Lambert, the by-the-books jaeger pilot who just wants to save the world, dammit. Again, it's all utter tosh and the scenes between them are all just leading up to whenever they jump into their jaegers and start fighting.
It's here where Pacific Rim: Uprising really soars and the action is far more fluid and enjoyable than the first one. Throughout the film, there's a goofy sense of humour to it that's in keeping with the more upbeat vibe that Uprising is trying to push, and while some of the dialogue may be particularly clunky in parts, who cares when it's this enjoyable? DeKnight's script leans in harder on the trailerspeak and catches the Top Gun-meets-Godzilla essence that the first film had and makes it more potent. Where the film slumps, and slumps hard, is in an entirely obvious character twist and Scott Eastwood's flat performance.
Ultimately, Pacific Rim: Uprising is going to be a love-it-hate-it situation. It's the kind of film that'll either make you run for the nearest exit or have you cheering along with the mayhem on screen.