4K ULTRA HD REVIEW
“PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING”
"PACIFIC RIM UPRISING"
4K Ultra HD, 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital copy; 2018; PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some profanity; streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play, iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: Commentary from Co-writer/Director Steven S. DeKnight
WHY DID Guillermo del Toro pass on the chance to direct “Pacific Rim: Uprising”?
The first “Pacific Rim” was a financial and critical success. Fans loved the story about the people of Earth banding together to fight kaiju, invading aliens from beneath the seas. The bots are called jaegers; they’re several stories high and controlled by pilots locked in a mental bond. It is a brilliant, anime inspired concept.
But del Toro let it be known he would leave the franchise. He’d set up “Pacific Rim” for more films, and a TV or animated series to follow. He also had a personal project to complete: “The Shape of Water,” a sci-fi romance that earned him an Academy Award for Best Picture.
Steven S. DeKnight, producer/writer/director of Netflix’s “Daredevil” series and Showtime’s “Spartacus,” took over the sabre chainsaws and received del Toro’s blessing. It’s his first feature film and, from the commentary and featurettes, it’s easy to tell he poured his heart and soul into it.
“I pitched [Guillermo del Toro] what I was thinking. He really liked it; he gave me some great suggestions [saying] ‘If you ever need anything from me give me a shout. Otherwise I want to stay out of your hair. Make it your movie,’” DeKnight said in an interview for CinemaBlend.
And he has made it his own. “Pacific Rim: Uprising” is brighter in look, lighter in tone and altogether more engaging.
“Originally, when I wrote the script with the other writers, we wanted to just throw the audience into it, so it actually started in the scrapyard without the prologue. But the more we thought about it, [we] felt like we needed to do something to re-set the world for the audience that had seen the original movie five years ago and also to help a new audience that has never seen the first movie to get their bearings … It was [also] a perfect opportunity to enhance Jake’s [John Boyega] character as this fun, roguish Han Solo-type of guy… It sent a clear message to the audience from the very beginning that the movie’s fun. It’s OK to sit back and relax and have some popcorn and enjoy yourself.” — Director/Co-Writer Steven S. DeKnight, commentary
Some fans – and critics – found “Uprising” too light, and too similar to “Transformer” flicks. Others have embraced the characters, and not just Boyega’s defiant Jake Pentecost, son of the late great Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) and brother to Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), who returns for the sequel. DeKnight’s film also brings back Burn Gorman (Hermann Gottlieb) and Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day). You’ll never find better mad scientists anywhere.
New faces include Scott Eastwood, son of Clint, as Nate Lambert, Jake’s jaeger co-pilot. He’s always ready to use his Dad’s square jaw and steely-eyed gaze to keep cadets in line. There’s Tian Jing as brilliant and powerful scientist Liwen Shao, who wants to deploy her specially designed drones against the kaiju. Newcomer Cailee Spaeny brings great presence to scrappy Amara Namani, 15, a self-taught engineer Jake meets in a junkyard. She’s built her own jaeger, small enough for a single neural pilot to control. Spaeny didn’t have any film credits, but sent an audition tape, DeKnight says in his commentary. A screen test showed great chemistry with lead actor John Boyega and she was hired.
Have we seen some of these character types before? Yes. Does the story center on another, bigger monster uprising the untried jaegar pilots must defeat? Yes, again. Even so, there are some good, surprising plot twists, and snappy dialogue to keep us entertained.
“The story does not function like anything you would expect. It’s basically kind of a murder mystery. It’s a story of ‘who killed Mako’ at its core,” Producer Cale Boyter says in “Mako Returns,” one of 12 featurettes in the release from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
Kinda sorta. Mostly, “Uprising” is robots, monsters, good guys, bad guys and saving the world. There’s also another good, go-get-‘em speech. DeKnight points out in commentary when the actors improvised, putting their own stamp on the characters and enhancing the story.
Like its predecessor and most of the summer blockbuster fare, “Pacific Rim: Uprising” is loaded with stunts, effects and CGI. DeKnight gives Industrial Light & Magic, Double Negative and Atomic Fiction beau coups credit for their work throughout the extras. But he’s right; all involved did a terrific job.
The 4K Ultra Blu-ray is absolutely gorgeous sourced from a 2K master. Color is rich, properly toned and shaded, and bursting with light. Neon effects, used in weapons and holograms, blaze in reds, green, orange, yellow, fuchsia and blue, showing authentic dimension. Sunlit battle scenes, from an early junkyard confrontation to the monster-sized, big city climax, give us plenty to see in every frame.
Blacks are solid, revealing near and far objects at the edges. “Pacific Rim: Uprising” also presents a wealth of solid white, so edgy it sparkles in sterile lab environments and in Liwen Shao’s wardrobe. Detail and texture are beyond reproach. “Uprising” has variety in its universe, showing scrapyards and ruins as well as a shining city of skyscrapers, and meticulous labs and jaeger interiors. Action scenes use close-ups, medium- and long-shots; nothing is lost at any stage.
The 1080p Blu-ray is also reference quality in its format. Effects, studio and location shots look great, with bold color, fine detail and good contrast.
Both the 2160p and 1080p presentations provide flawless Dolby Atmos and default Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtracks. Sound ranges from subtle to electrifying, with a bold, dynamic bass. Here’s the plus – balance is perfect, so no one feature, like the score, overwhelms another. Dialogue is always clear. Lorne Balfe composed the original music.
Do we have to warn you not to watch any of these before the movie unless you want to be spoiled? Consider it done.
Seven of the 12 featurettes – the longest about six minutes – provide a decent making-of with fun facts and interviews. “Hall of Heroes” has Boyega using his power presence to introduce the latest jaegers; it’s almost a recruitment ad. “Bridge to ‘Uprising’” explores the jump from the first film to the second, with cast and filmmakers. “The Underworld of ‘Uprising,’” “Becoming Cadets,” and “Unexpected Villain” goes into the new characters. “I Am Scrapper,” “Secrets of Shao” and “Mako Returns” focus on individual characters.
“Going Mega” examines the bigger, more threatening kaiju; “Next Level Jaegers” looks at the new designs and how they were brought to the screen.
“Part of the upgrade with the jaegars I wanted to do was free up the pilots so their arms and legs weren’t bolted in” DeKnight says in his commentary. “One, for the actual interaction between the actors inside the con-pods. Two, to explore more advanced, more exotic moves that the jaegars could do on the outside – again with the idea its 10 years later, humanity has rebuilt the jaegar program from the beginning.”
DeKnight’s enthusiasm is captivating and catching. He also provides commentary for eight deleted and extended scenes.
So … “Pacific Rim: Uprising” is different from the first “Pacific Rim” movie. Is that a bad thing? Not at all. There’s some depth and a lot of fun to be had in this giant robot vs. giant monster spectacular. Forget those preconceived notions, sit back and enjoy it!
- Kay Reynolds