If you’re willing to overlook “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” — as most moviegoers did — Charlie Hunnam is growing into one of the savviest actors in Hollywood.
Not only was he wise enough to bail on the “Fifty Shades” franchise after being cast as Christian Grey, he took on the lead role in a remake of “Papillon” that just happened to conflict with the filming of “Pacific Rim Uprising,” thereby extricating himself from the noisy, joyless sequel.
So just how dull is the follow-up to 2013’s robots-fighting-monsters mayhem, which replaces “The Shape of Water” Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro in the director’s chair with Steven S. DeKnight, who created the “Spartacus” TV series and more recently served as a consultant on a web series called “Travel Boobs”?
The guy sitting in front of me smelled like he’d just been pulled from the rubble of an explosion at a Drakkar Noir factory. Yet, after the initial waves of nausea passed, choking back the tears became a welcome diversion.
“Uprising” kicks off with a look at post-“Pacific Rim” Los Angeles. It’s been 10 years, and while most of the world has recovered, the coastal cities remain a mess. Jake Pentecost (John Boyega, the “Star Wars” sequels’ Finn), the son of “Pacific Rim’s” legendary Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), wants nothing to do with piloting Jaegers, the massive robots designed to fight the beastly Kaiju. Instead, he’s busy partying, squatting in an abandoned L.A. mansion, and I swear I saw him trade an Oscar for a box of cereal.
But when he’s arrested during his day job — stealing Jaeger parts to sell on the black market — alongside 15-year-old mechanic Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny), Jake is given a choice: Go to prison, or return to China’s Moyulan Shatterdome and train Amara alongside the next generation of Jaeger pilots.
Upon their arrival, Amara immediately starts fangirling over the various Jaegers. “That’s Titan Redeemer! Saber Athena! I love Saber Athena!”
The only reason there’s a “Pacific Rim Uprising” is because of how well “Pacific Rim” performed internationally. And that was a seemingly calculated move by del Toro, who had the heroic Jaegers, and their pilots, hail from America, China, Russia and Australia.
“Uprising” further broadens its demographic base by adding teens from around the world. The result — written by DeKnight, Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder and the “Maze Runner” trilogy’s T.S. Nowlin — feels less like a script than a compilation of marketing research. What’s next for the franchise? Throw in some scrappy seniors? Maybe, like Preston Rhinelander (Robert Mitchum) in “Scrooged,” producers could look for a way to appeal to cats.
Also, and I’ve said this so often it probably will appear on my tombstone, teens simply don’t function well alongside adults in action movies.
Take the scene when Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood), the leader of the cadet training program, interrupts a fight between Amara and the young Russian, Vik (Ivanna Sakhno).
Amara: “She jumped me!”
Vik: “She doesn’t belong here!”
Nate: “I don’t care!”
Join the club, pal.
Despite their animosity, things function pretty well until an attack by a rogue Jaeger levels a wide swath of Sydney, robots fight robots, and suddenly it’s “Transformers 2035.”
Eventually the Kaiju return and lay waste to the Japanese capital. Finally, a movie where giant monsters attack Tokyo!
The Jaegers retaliate by pulling skyscrapers down on top of the Kaiju. At one point, a Jaeger plants its foot on the side of a high-rise, using it to launch itself at a Kaiju and leveling the building in the process. Now that’s just wasteful.
The one positive takeaway from “Uprising” is that Boyega has definite leading man potential outside the “Star Wars” universe. As for his highest-billed co-star, though, we’re four years into the Scott Eastwood Experiment, and it just isn’t working.
The duo spend much of their time together controlling their Jaeger via a treadmill like some futuristic cardio alternative to SoulCycle.
But it’s an apt metaphor for “Pacific Rim Uprising”: There’s just far too much running in place.
Movie: “Pacific Rim Uprising”
Running time: 110 minutes
Rating: PG-13; sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language
Now playing: At multiple locations
Contact Christopher Lawrence at email@example.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.