With expectations set very low, Pacific Rim Uprising will mildly satisfy fans of the first movie and if taken as pure popcorn escapism. Otherwise, audiences will quickly fall asleep, waking only to the ear-piercing robot mayhem. The Blu-ray lands with reference-quality HD video, an awesome Dolby Atmos soundtrack and a small set of supplements, making the overall package Worth A Look for hardened fans.
We have also reviewed this movie on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.
For those who felt Guillermo Del Toro's sci-fi mecha actioner Pacific Rim left them wanting more, don't expect Uprising to fulfill those expectations. The next chapter in the fight against the apocalypse is more of the same without completely being a carbon-copy of its predecessor, littered with contrivances for bringing back hideously imaginative monstrosities from another dimension. (Are the filmmakers implying a certain someone had babies with a Kaiju? Seriously?) Added to that, the story is led by disposable, forgettable protagonists who ultimately would have made no difference to the final outcome.
On the other hand, for those whose childhood fantasies of seeing giant robots battle gargantuan monsters felt instantly satisfied by Del Toro's 2013 popcorn escapism — and that is literally all that matters — then you've pretty much already made up your mind. There is very little that could be said to deter such hardened fans, and to be perfectly honest and fair, I reluctantly agree with such passions. (I openly admit to my bad taste in movies because I want to enjoy some brainless diversions.) Similar to the first movie, however dumb and silly the device for introducing the Kaiju into our dimension, the goal is simply to revel and be awed by the insanely fanciful and whimsically inventive visuals. So what certain characteristics of Raleigh Becket and Stacker Pentecost were essentially meshed together and then split again between Jake Pentecost (John Boyega) and Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood doing his best "I'm not my dad" handsome, smarmy sexiness). Their sole purpose for existence is an excuse for the awesome action.
The remaining ensemble cast is basically fodder fuel for the plot. (Yeah, the plot. Not the monsters.) They are an assortment of paper-thin, superfluous, two-dimensional personalities that trivially perform action in the background, even going so far as forcing a predictable subplot about teamwork, until suddenly called upon to affect the filmmakers' main objective — anything having to do with Pentecost and Lambert finally teaming up and climbing into a giant robot to fight a giant monster. This includes embittered, talented street orphan Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny). Of the young cast, the only one which displayed a mildly interesting personality is Viktoriya Malikova (Ivanna Sakhno), the young privileged pilot rivaling Amara as the hardened soldier.
Uprising goes out of its way to be as simplistic as possible, even when featuring Charlie Day and Burn Gorman reprising their respective roles from the previous movie to provide the central conflict, which again also, is ridiculously nonsensical and laughably silly. Admittedly, Jing Tian, as ruthless businesswoman Liwen Shao, offers another mildly worthwhile character whose turn in the third act generates some amusing laughs. Director Steven S. DeKnight also deserves some credit for taking over and doing surprisingly well considering he's following up a proven visual master like Del Toro. The story tends to dawdle in a few areas and not all the action feels quite as engaging as it should, such as the attack on Shatterdome. But outdoors in the middle of major metropolitan areas, the sequel satisfies those same childhood fantasies which have attracted audiences in the first place and make it worth at least one viewing.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings Pacific Rim Uprising to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a code for a Digital Copy. The Region Free, BD50 disc sits comfortably opposite a DVD-9, and both come inside a blue, eco-elite case with a shiny, glossy slipcover. After several skippable trailers, viewers are taken to a static menu with music.
Jaegers duke it out on the streets of Blu-ray with a stunningly gorgeous 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode, equipping the wildly-imaginative metal mayhem with a plethora of colors. Energizing the insane visuals with the feel of a Saturday-morning cartoon, primaries are absolutely sumptuous and flamboyant while a vast array of richly-saturated secondary hues wash the video with a dazzling energy that's nearly hypnotic.
Spot-on contrast allows for the fast-moving action to always be clear and intelligible while also delivering pitch-perfect whites, making each spark from the metal-on-metal punches twinkle and shimmer with an electrifying clarity. Black levels are continuously inky rich, providing the 2.39:1 image with a luxurious, cinematic appeal, and background information within the darkest corners of the frame are always distinct.
Shot exclusively on the Arri Alexa camera system, the freshly-minted, digital-to-digital transfer arrives in the nick of time with razor-sharp definition in every scene. Whether we're talking about rust stains on the metal walls of the recruit barracks or the ultra-fine stitching of the uniforms, fine lines and objects are plainly visible, and the tiniest scratch and war wound on the Jaegers is striking and distinct even from a distance. Facial complexions appear healthy and accurate, revealing every pore, wrinkle and negligible blemish in the entire cast, making the sci-fi action sequel pure eye-candy if for nothing else.
The fight against the apocalypse readies for battle with a fantastic, highly-satisfying Dolby Atmos soundtrack that'll have the house feeling exhausted from the bonkers pandemonium. The screen is continuously showered with a variety of background activity fluidly moving across the three-front channels and convincingly into the front heights, generating a highly-engaging and awesomely broad half-dome soundstage. A dynamic and extensive mid-range exhibits excellent detailing and separation during the loudest, ear-piercing moments, allowing for distinct audible clarity in the metal-on-metal mayhem and every bone-crunching punch while the hollow, reverberating roars of the Kaiju penetrate deep into the room. Amid the uproar, vocals remain precise and well-prioritized at all times.
Every time chaos erupts on screen, glass, gravel, dirt, and metal debris shower from directly above the listening area and rain down the surrounds, creating a terrifically immersive hemispheric soundfield. Other atmospherics also echo and convincingly pan across the overheads with amusing effectiveness, but the best moments are when they are employed to give the Jaegers and Kaiju a better sense of size and perspective, flawlessly moving from the rear to front heights and into the screen or vice versa. Unfortunately, the low-end surprisingly is not as aggressive or earth-shattering as expected, especially when compared to the first movie. Granted, there is a great deal of hard, commanding bass to enjoy, providing the gigantic action with plenty of weight and presence, but it's not at the room-energizing, wall-rattling and seismic intensity the visual would imply. Nonetheless, I can't imagine many complaining, and in the end, the object-based mix delivers several demo-worthy moments. (Audio Rating: 93/100)
The same set of special features found on the Blu-ray can also be enjoyed on the Ultra HD disc.
Audio Commentary: Director Steven S. DeKnight rides solo for this fairly informative commentary on various aspects of the production, the performances, visual effects and overall story.
Becoming Cadets (4K, 6 min): A few minutes on Amara's fellow recruits.
Unexpected Villain (4K, 6 min): Interviews on one character's surprise twist.
Bridge to Uprising (4K, 5 min): Cast & crew interviews on connecting the sequel to the first.
Next Level Jaegers (4K, 5 min): Closer look and technical discussion on the new mecha characters.
The Underworld of Uprising (4K, 4 min): Discussion on the first act & surviving in the aftermath.
Hall of Heroes (4K, 3 min): John Boyega comments on specific details of each Jaeger.
I Am Scrapper (4K, 3 min): Brief look on the small Jaeger and its role in the movie.
Going Mega (4K, 3 min): Some time on the mother of all Kaijus.
Secrets of Shao (4K, 3 min): Focused on the ruthless businesswoman.
Mako Returns (4K, 2 min): Pretty much exactly as the title implies.
As a direct follow-up to Guillermo Del Toro's 2013 sci-fi mecha actioner, Pacific Rim Uprising is relatively satisfying, sure to meet expectations of hardened fans while leaving others wanting more. Starring John Boyega and Scott Eastwood, the sequel is pure popcorn escapism, placing more attention on the robot-vs-monster pandemonium than on character development or a thoughtfully engaging plot. The Blu-ray brings the gigantic mayhem reference-quality HD video and an awesome Dolby Atmos soundtrack. A small but nonetheless informative set of supplements rounds out the package and worth a look for fans.