Pacific Rim: Uprising is a Model For Fun Blockbusters

Pacific Rim: Uprising is an absolute blast of a film in the way only giant robots squaring off against other giant robots and even larger alien monsters can be. It’s rare for a larger-than-life action blockbuster to really impress me these days, but Uprising did. After my first viewing, I couldn’t quite pin down why. I find even the most critically acclaimed, well-loved blockbusters to be grating. The Star Wars franchise aside, I guess? For whatever reason, there’s a firewall in my mind separating Star Wars from every other big budget movie.

Anyway, my enjoyment of Star Wars isn’t the point. Though it is actually related to why Uprising works, since they share a common factor: John Boyega. The one thing I was sure of when I walked out of the theater was the excellence of Boyega’s performance. He carries the film on his shoulders, so charismatic he makes up for writing that would otherwise leave me cringing.

The second time through, it was even more clear just how much fun he seemed to be having. He delivers his line with such an infectious sense of earnestness I found it difficult not to be captivated. And perhaps that rubbed off on members of the supporting cast. Despite the other performances being hit-or-miss (Charlie Day aside, who is fantastic), they all mirror Boyega’s childlike excitement.

On a broader scale, so does the film. Seeing it for a second time allowed me to reflect on what makes it tick, and ultimately it’s pretty simple. Uprising knows exactly what it is, and everyone from director Steven S DeKnight to his three co-writers (Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, and T.S. Nowlin) to the cast made exactly that movie. It never really goes for super dramatic highs or tries to explain the mechanics of the universe. Quippy banter is largely kept to a minimum.

Instead, it’s an honest action film made by people who appeared to be having an absolute blast making it. There’s no attempt to be taken seriously, and that works wonders. The result was a more genuine film, one that didn’t feel like it was simply trying to fit into a mold and go after the lowest common denominator of film viewers. Which isn’t to say it’s a unique movie–far from it.

But it does set itself apart from its peers. For the first time in a while, I actually found myself agreeing with the “it was fun” defense, which I usually scoff at. People can obviously have fun with different kinds of movies, it’s just what the public conscious tends to find “fun” rarely works for me.

For that reason, Pacific Rim: Uprising just felt good. I know it sounds overly simplistic, but it was nice to just walk out of a movie and go “I had a blast, and that’s enough.”