The things people are saying about this sequel sound like the kinds of things they could safely say without ever bothering to watch the movie: it’s just a loud, boring mess because it doesn’t have the benefit of Guillermo del Toro’s creativity like the first one, which wasn’t even all that popular. Fine. Even the kindest reviews say the sequel is only an echo of the 2013 original.
What I think is NOT fair to say (and a review at Roger Ebert agrees with me) is that Uprising is as bad as Michael Bay’s Transformers movies. I only watched the first one. That, now that was loud and boring. And crass! I am not a Transformers fan, but I am still mad at Michael Bay for somehow being able to mess up a movie about sentient cars, because that is such a cool concept. (I’ll stick with Herbie, thanks.)
See below for a shorter-than-usual plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.
Beat Sheet for Pacific Rim: Uprising
The breach below the Pacific has been sealed, but the world has only partly recovered from the kaiju attacks.
A few Jaegers are still used for civil defense, but they’re not needed to fight aliens anymore. Humanity is safe, haha.
A nonchalant black-market parts dealer (Stacker Pentecost) and a plucky orphan engineer (Amara Namani) are caught operating Amara’s illegal mini-jaeger.
Debate / Break into Two
Stacker and Amara can join the Pan Pacific Defense Corps or they can go to jail. They join.
B-Story / Fun and Games
At the Hong Kong jaeger-pilot training facility, we meet people Stacker used to know; at some point he gave up on trying to develop his potential. He’s probably going to have to step up and be a better role model. Another trainee pilot picks fights with Amara because she has earned her place in the corps and Amara hasn’t—or at any rate, hasn’t yet.
There are plans to replace jaegers that have human pilots with drones that can be piloted remotely, though this opens up the possibility of the jaegers being hacked and then controlled by the wrong people. It turns out non-drone jaegers can also go bad, though: at an important meeting in Sydney, that’s exactly what happens.
Bad Guys Close In
Newt, one of the wacky scientists from the first movie, is hooking himself up to a kaiju brain regularly, because it gives him a fun, drugged feeling. It also seems to be driving him crazy. Meanwhile, Amara and some other trainees discover that the rogue jaeger has no pilot. It is a Chinese machine with a kaiju brain.
All Is Lost / Dark Night of the Soul
Amara is kicked out of the pilot program for disobeying orders. Drones controlled by kaiju brains are deployed across the world and attack the bases they were sent to reinforce, just as Newt planned. (The Chinese drone manufacturer is innocent.) Before the drones can be disabled, they re-open the breach in the ocean and let three kaiju through. The three kaiju head towards Mount Fuji. If they reach it, they will set off some kind of chemical reaction that will kill all the humans and make the Earth fit for the kaiju’s masters.
Break into Three
The trainee pilots hatch a plan to stop the kaiju from reaching Mount Fuji. It involves experimental technology supplied by Hermann, the other wacky scientist from the first movie.
The humans and jaegers battle the three kaiju, which merge into one. Amara’s mini-jaeger is used to evacuate the jaeger pilots who finally succeed in using one of the jaegers to head off the mega-kaiju on the slopes of the volcano.
Newt gnashes his teeth and says we haven’t seen the last of him. (The box office begs to differ.)