It should come as no surprise that Pacific Rim Uprising isn’t as good as the Guillermo del Toro original (which wasn’t one of the recent Oscar-winner’s best films anyway).

That’s not to say that new director Steven S. DeKnight (who gave us TV’s Spartacus) hasn’t done a solid job expanding the universe and bringing something new to it, especially for a first feature. It’s no Jaeger bomb, it just lacks the creative spark and sense of awe that GDT would bring.

Set ten years after the closure of The Breach, the sequel predominantly focuses on the Pan Pacific Defence Corp, who are prepping a new generation of Jaeger pilots should the monstrous Kaiju ever return.

Jake Penetecost (John Boyega) – the son of Idris Elba’s character from the original – is making a living scavenging Jaeger parts for the black market before being enlisted by his adopted sister, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi, reprising the role), to train the cadets alongside former buddy turned rival Lambert (Scott Eastwood).

After a rogue Jaeger runs amok in Sydney and multiple breaches re-open, the PPDC have a double threat to deal with, as it appears someone is splicing Jaeger and Kaiju technology to create a deadly new weapon. And lurking on the sidelines is the shady Shao Industries, as well as Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day), who’s never been quite the same after his Kaiju mind-meld in the first film.     

Much of Uprising is concerned with the PPDC and its new Jaeger program – there are shades of Ender’s Game in the training of kids as Jaeger pilots – and the Kaiju don’t actually show up until the halfway mark.

DeKnight keeps the action coming at a rapid pace and stages a spectacular Kaiju attack on Tokyo that’s all the more impressive in that it’s shot in broad daylight, with the VFX holding up to prolonged scrutiny.

Moreover, bringing the Kaiju home to Japan will put a smile on the face of Toho monster fans, and subtly sets up a future crossover with Godzilla and the MonsterVerse.

The Pacific Rim films are basically a cinematic toy box in which giant robots bash up giant monsters, and on that level Uprising mostly delivers. And we’ll take another Pacific Rim over Transformers any day, even one that’s missing the del Toro touch.

In cinemas: March 22, 2018
Starring: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny
Directed by: Steven S. DeKnight

Read our interview with Steve S. DeKnight and Scott Eastwood