The first season of Pacific Rim: The Black is now available on Netflix. This is a review for the full season.
Netflix’s Pacific Rim: The Black — which serves as a sequel to Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim and the 2018 sequel, Pacific Rim: Uprising — is both a YA adventure and a darker, more death-laden spin on the franchise. Fast-forwarding past countless Kaiju encounters and numerous (hopeless) wars and into a ravaged future reminiscent of Mad Max (aside from it just being set in Australia), The Black is a feisty and ferocious fable that’s gorgeously animated and creatively cool.
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Holding The Black back, just a bit, in its first season, is the story itself taking a while to fully gel. That, plus numerous sci-fi tropes being swirled together (mute mystery kid, siblings in search of parents, the emotionally-scarred loner, etc), sinks the saga just a touch. Especially since if a series takes three or four episodes to kick in and the season is only seven episodes total, the clunkiness is taking up almost half the time. Once The Black does find its legs though, it’s a grim good time.
Just the fact that The Black is set on an abandoned continent that’s been completely crushed by the Precursors’ Kaiju already makes this a bleaker ride than the films. Though the world is brutally beset by monsters in the movies, the story is always about humanity trying to defeat these interdimensional enemies once and for all. To end the siege. This isn’t even an option in The Black, as the main focus here, at least in this first season, is a young brother and sister duo Taylor (Calum Worthy) and Hayley (Gideon Adlon) trying to traverse the Aussie badlands in a quest to find their long lost mom and dad. There’s no mention of defeating the Precursors or putting an end to the Kaiju blight. This is a smaller, more intimate family story set among the ruin.
The transition of the mythos and mayhem from live-action to 3D animation is entrancingly handled by Polygon Pictures, which delivers to us the same colorful vibrancy seen in the films while also creating a world that’s very much its own, with new Kaiju designs and a wasteland paradise to explore. The story is a heavy one and it sometimes moves a bit too quickly past some of its grittiness (the two teens have a habit of getting a lot of people killed, er, inadvertently), but once you realize that burying guilt and fear down deep is just a core survival mechanism for these kids, it makes more sense.
Plus, all of this psychological baggage figures profoundly into the concept of “drifting,” which is as big a deal here as it was in the movies. Even more so, in fact, since one of the series’ strengths is presenting us with a set of heroes who are hamstrung in just about every way possible. They’re untested, only partially trained, clueless about what their next movie is, and gifted with a disarmed Jaeger — Atlas Destroyer — that’s only used for training cadets. Throw in scheming thieves, roaming monsters (a Kaiju named Copperhead is a constant, cruel bane), and altogether new life-forces born out of the “Uprising Wars” (yes, the sequel is important, it turns out), and The Black becomes a fairly engrossing uphill climb for our protagonists.
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Pacific Rim: The Black maintains a high level of action and devastation, as you’d expect from this franchise, while also keeping the fragile family drama, that was also prominent in the films, alive as well. It actually gets explored a bit better in The Black, naturally, since this is an ongoing series, and that helps blend together the desolation and glumness that’s often prevalent here. Both Taylor and Hayley blame themselves for numerous mistakes but they also help each other carry this emotional weight, as well as assisting others they pick up along the way to deal with their trauma too. Nothing, and no one, is unscathed in The Black.
Source: IGN.com Pacific Rim: The Black Review