Pacific Rim Uprising
Eric S Brown
In 2013, Pacific Rim, the first truly, large-budget mecha film, hit theaters across the globe. While it only raked in around 411 million dollars, it also found a deeply devoted cult-following obsessed with its cool mecha, kaiju, and near post-apocalyptic would.
Mecha and Kaiju fans alike hailed it as a modern classic, and the movie spawned a line of toys based on its Jaegers and Kaiju. The first release of those toys sold out at lightning speed, creating a rather high priced collector’s market. That was followed by a couple of limited comic book series, a graphic novel, a Heroclix game, and tons of other merchandise including a table top book on the making of the film.
Fans just couldn’t get enough of what Pacific Rim had to offer. The wait for a sequel was a long and painful one, yet finally Pacific Rim Uprising came into being. Fans rejoiced and the studio had high hopes of the second movie cementing Pacific Rim’s place as a viable franchise like Star Wars, Star Trek, etc. Sadly, that was not to be. Pacific Rim Uprising made even less at the box office than the original film. The long wait, combined with the on-and-off attempt to make it in the first place, had taken their toll on the original film’s fandom.
But what really hurt Pacific Rim Uprising were the changes to the plot and Jaegers. Gone was the dark atmosphere of the first film. The Jaegers were no longer battle worn, scarred machines in a desperate world but rather gleaming, shiny new creations in a world where Kaiju were no longer even a threat. Worse, the story wasn’t centered around the Pan Pacific Defense Corps and a war with the kaiju. It had been turned into a coming of age tale for a young cadet, and a tale of redemption for a failed Jaeger pilot. On the surface, those parallel plots seem fine but on the screen, they came across as a children’s movie.
Pacific Rim was never meant to a Jedi Academy sort of story, but that is the direction Uprising took. Not even the over the top action, and cool mecha, could overcome that – perhaps in part because even those mecha were clearly targeted at children. Cherno Alpha, the tank like Jaeger from the first film, has an almost romantic edge to her backstory. She’s a mech that has seen action for years, and held the line against all odds. The tank like mech of Uprising, Bracer Phoenix, was merely created to be “cool”. The studio clearly didn’t realize that many of the original movie’s following were older people who loved the Shogun Warriors and Godzilla, and failing to discern that cost them.
I have watched the original Pacific Rim close to one hundred times. I love it dearly and have collected a decent bit of its merchandise. I even introduced my son to the movie and he fell in love with it too. However, I have only seen Uprising four times, and two of those because of my son begging me to watch it with him. As popcorn flicks go, Uprising wasn’t a bad movie, but for fans of the original, it failed entirely to capture the magic of that first film.
Will there be a Pacific Rim 3? It’s certainly possible, despite the box office failing of Uprising, but does not seem unlikely. The fans that so desperately wanted a sequel to the first movie have fallen silent now.