Hunter Powell’s review published on Letterboxd:
Despite what the trailers might have you believe, Pacific Rim: Uprising is a movie about directors. Okay, it's not really, it's about robots punching monsters, but it does say a lot about just how much a director matters to a film. While the first film is big and dumb and flashy, and probably Del Toro's weakest film, it was still a competent and entertaining film that executed its narrative well, and most importantly it had passion from its director. Pacific Rim: Uprising is a very similar film. It's big, and dumb, and flashy. It's main character is very similar to the first, it's storyline is very similar, and it employs most of the same concepts without adding much. But this time Steven S. Deknight is running the show, and it's very apparent that this is his first time helming a film.
There were far too many moments in this film where I had no idea why characters were doing something or even what they were doing. The film jumps from event to event at a blistering rate right from the opening, and it causes a lot of pacing issues. It takes no time to build characters or world, or even a scene. There's so much choppy editing and poor transition from scene to scene that keeping up with what's happening in the film becomes confusing very quickly, and stays that way through the first hour. One moment in particular was so bad that me and both of my friends couldn't stop talking about it. Without giving away too much (if you care about vague spoilers then skip ahead), one character dies early on in the film in a helicopter crash. Except we never the helicopter crash, we just see the main character's jaeger miss grabbing it to save them. Five minutes later the scene ends and we cut to the main character walking up to a memorial and the deceased characters picture hung on the wall. Due to the nature of the memorial, the main character's behavior, and then mentioning that the character was buried, I assumed this was just poor editing again and at least a few days had passed. Except later another character mentions that the events had happened earlier that day so somehow the character died in a crash, was buried, and had a memorial put up all within 12 hours. Moments like this reek of incoherency. There's so many missing pieces that connect the film's plot, and the rushed exposition leaves the audience reeling through at least half of the film before it kicks it into nonstop action mode.
It took three quarters of the film before me or my friends I saw it with could fully understand the main character's back story in accordance with the timeline of the first movie, he has so few scenes where he's not just spouting sarcastic quips that they never establish a firm motivation for his character. There's also so many characters on screen that none of them gain any depth, I can't even call most of them cardboard cutouts because they aren't given enough character traits to even become stereotypes. Large casts are not a bad thing and each of them don't have to have a large character arc, but an action film like this should at least have someone to anchor it. Boyega plays a sarcastic bad boy who won't play by the rules, and his depth doesn't go much further than that. Eastwood is his antithesis, a hard ass soldier type who delivers some truly cheesy lines. The hacker girl was probably the best character in the film but she's also given more ability than it seems like some random girl from the slums would have and there's so many plot inconsistencies that surround her that it's hard to get attached. And that's about it for the actual characters. The characters from the first film are the same with one very weird exception, and every other character has no character whatsoever. I could've really seen this working as an ensemble film about jaeger cadets in training, but instead we got whatever this was.
If there's one redeeming quality about the film, the action sequences are still for the most part very entertaining. It's not a master class in action direction as the first one wasn't, but they do enough to ramp up the stakes here that it's fun to experience. There's a bit cliche but nonetheless grandiose monster in the end and the jaeger on jaeger fights were fun. There's also a concept involving drones that incorporates a very dumb plot twist but I couldn't help but admire in execution. Other than that, there's not much to write home about.
Pacific Rim: Uprising is a pulpy, flashy cgi film about robots and monsters, and ya know, I normally wouldn't expect much from that other than said robots punching said monsters and maybe firing a laser or two. But there's so much poor direction and pacing here from DeKnight that every moment a jaeger or kaijuu aren't on screen, is a painful experience. The film's myriad of plot issues don't help matters, and I'm not sure if that's a script writer issue or another fault of DeKnight. Either way, this film's script is laughably executed and the video game that is the action sequences isn't enough to redeem that. This isnt quite Transformers level, but man it's scary how close a sequel could come.