Fresh on 4K: ‘PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING’ a less-than-stellar sequel that gets by with stunning visuals

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Connor Bynum // Film Critic

PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING

Rated PG-13, 111 minutes.
Director: Steven S. DeKnight
Cast: John BoyegaScott EastwoodCailee SpaenyBurn GormanCharlie DayTian JingJin Zhang and Rinko Kikuchi

When I reviewed PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING in theaters earlier this year, I found that while it offered improvements over its predecessor in terms of action, it suffered even more so in its character development. That being said, I greatly enjoyed the visuals of the film which made me all the more excited to review the film in 4K UHD.

Movie Grade: C+

For all the effort Guillermo del Toro put into making the Jaegers and Kaiju feel as believable as possible in his 2013 passion project, PACIFIC RIM, its supporting cast ended up being merely one-dimensional, forgettable characters who were given barely anything to do. Unfortunately, this is all the more apparent in UPRISING with secondary characters getting a single moment in the spotlight before dying in, what I’m guessing was supposed to be, an emotional scene.

Gripes about character development aside, TV producer-turned-director Steven S. DeKnight (SPARTACUS: WAR OF THE DAMNED, MARVEL’S DAREDEVIL) shows he is more than up to the task of crafting intricate action sequences. When the Jaegers get into full gear, the movie is a popcorn-driven spectacle. Yet, DeKnight can’t seem to find the right balance between providing exposition and pandering to the audience by having his characters remind everyone of what happened in the previous film.

If you didn’t care much for the first one, odds are that UPRISING will do little to change your tune. It’s bigger, it’s louder and it’s got more of what held its predecessor back in the first place.

For my full theatrical review, click here.

Scott Eastwood, John Boyega, and Cailee Spaeny in PACIFIC RIM UPRISING. Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Video/Audio Grade: A-

PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING was captured in a mixture of 2.8 and 3.4K and mastered for a 2K Digital Intermediate, but the film still boasts a noticeable increase in detail over the 1080p version in spite of requiring an upscale to 4K. Little scratches on pilots’ body armor and on the Jaegers themselves are much more apparent. Skin tones are sharp and wide shots of the large scale destruction on screen are particularly vivid as well. One scene near the climax stands out exceptionally as thousands of individual drones swarm the city streets. Each of these drones is individually realized and the increased level of detail makes the image a feast for the eyes.

The inclusion of HDR10 and Dolby Vision is truly what gives this disc its edge above the Blu-ray. The vibrant colors of the Jaegers as well as their hologram filled cockpits are incredibly deep and really pop when compared to the Blu-ray version of the film. Some darker scenes do feel a little crushed at times, but overall, this is a stellar HDR presentation.

The Dolby Atmos audio track offers just about what one would expect from an effects driven action film like UPRISING. Basses are booming, dialogue is clear, and the intricate clinks and clanks of the Jaegers are exquisitely mixed. I did feel that the music during certain sequences could have been a little more prominent, but this is hardly something to get too upset about.

Extras Grade: B+

It should be noted that all of the extras found on the included Blu-ray disc are also included on the 4K disc and are featured in 4K UHD. A Movies Anywhere digital code is also included. While the inclusion of all extras on the 4K disc is certainly a commendable effort when the norm is to leave them on the regular Blu-ray, the extras themselves, although numerous, are comparatively brief. Most of the featurettes play over the course of four or five minutes and end up feeling more like teases rather than an in depth look at the making of the film. So with that in mind, I’m giving the extras a slight bump in score simply for the fact that they are presented in 4K.

  • Feature Audio Commentary with Director Steven S. DeKnight
  • Deleted Scenes with Commentary by Director Steven S. DeKnight
  • Hall of Heroes – John Boyega takes us through the awesome weaponry and cutting-edge enhancements of the latest generation of Jaegers featured in the film.
  • Bridge to Uprising – The cast and crew discuss how the world of Pacific Rim has changed in the ten years since the events of the original film.
  • The Underworld of Uprising – Humanity won the Kaiju War, but every war has casualties. John Boyega and Steven S. DeKnight give a tour of the coastal “Relief Zones.”
  • Becoming Cadets – Step into the Shatterdome, and learn the grueling physical and mental preparation required of the young actors who portrayed the PPDC cadets.
  • Unexpected Villain – Learn the secret reason that turned one of the most beloved heroes of the original film into a villain obsessed with humanity’s destruction.
  • Next Level Jaegers – The cast and crew discuss the amazing technological advances of the Jaeger program in the years since the events of the original film.
  • I Am Scrapper – Actress Cailee Spaeny shares the backstory of Scrapper, Amara’s incredible self-built Jaeger and its many unique abilities.
  • Going Mega – Filmmakers take us through the technical and creative challenges of creating the most deadly threat the Pan Pacific Defense Corp has ever faced: the Mega Kaiju!
  • Secrets of Shao – Meet the woman behind Shao Industries. Actress Tian Jing shares her insights on the enigmatic tech tycoon Liwen Shao.
  • Mako Returns – Actress Rinko Kikuchi and director Steven S. DeKnight explain the significance of Mako Mori’s return and her importance to the events of PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING.

Final Grade: B+

While certainly a imperfect sequel to Guillermo Del Toro’s original passion project, PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING offers just of a visual punch to justify the 4K premium. If you’re looking for a 4K visual spectacle with a fair amount of heart but not a lot of brains, look no further.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.