Pacific Rim is a big-budget monster movie in the same vain as the Kaiju film of old, brought to a western audience. With a collaboration effort between Director Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hell Boy) and Writer Travis Beacham (Clash of the Titans, Dog Days of Summer), this movie plays as a dedicated fan service to not only the Japanese monster films of the past but also a time when the big summer blockbuster action film wasn’t so dark and brooding. Though Pacific Rim follows many plot points and character arcs that some will find familiar and even clichéd, the combination of the movie’s humor and visual spectacle makes it one of the hot must-see cinema trips of 2013.
In the near future, an inter-dimensional rift opens beneath the Pacific Ocean resulting in a giant monster known as a Kaiju arrives on Earth and wreaks havoc upon the coastline cities resulting in massive destruction and a mass of resources being used to bring the beast down. Over time, more and more Kaiju ascend upon our world causing the Earths leading forces to come together to create gigantic Mechs known as Jaeger; gargantuan piloted robots built with the sole purpose of fighting these huge monsters. Following years of success battling the Kaiju threat, the monsters start to gain the upper-hand by adapting and sending more powerful beings, resulting in losses for the humans and faith dwindling in the Jaeger program. Now what few pilots left must band together in order to formulate a new plan.
“Go big or go extinct!” is the poster tagline seen on posters whilst queuing to see the movie and Del Toro has certainly done just that. With not just the size and quality of the Jaegers and Kaijus but also the settings, spanning the massive Pacific Ocean (obviously), the industrial looking base of the giant Mechs and worldwide locations, most common of with includes a re-imagined Hong Kong black market located under the remains of a defeated Kaiju named Bone Town. When it comes to what everyone wants to see (Huge Robots and Aliens beating the Holy Heck out of each other), Pacific Rim does a great job in not only paying tribute to the men in rubber suits from the past but also make you think “this is probably how a 300 foot Mech would move” keeping the moments in slow yet gigantic strides but not to a point where it becomes dull to watch.
Just like any Kaiju film there is a lacking element to Pacific Rim and just like any good film from the Japanese film Studio Toho that Del Toro seems to be paying homage to (even throwing in a Godzillia roar very early on), no matter how much of a marvel you make your beasts battle, it’s the human element that will always seem lacking. Leading the movie’s cast is Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket; the typical American blonde hero type do-gooder, who only seems to be missing his good soul homegrown Kansas story line. This isn’t to say that Hunnam himself is bad in the movie or that his character has been written poorly, it’s just that we’ve seen this lead hero type a million times and Pacific Rim does not deviate from the tradition at all (a reference to Luke Skywalker is also included to point out the glaring similarities). Unfortunately the clichés do not stop at with the lead role as you have Idris Elba as the big Army type leader of the group, Rinko Kikuchi as the female character who serves as a potential Love interest with a troubled past and then there’s Robert Kazinsky, a hothead testosterone fueled egotist who’s only missing character trait is his High School Letterman’s jacket. As predictable as all of these leading characters are written, you can’t help but feel that this was an intentional decision that seems to play into the ‘paying tribute’ feel of Pacific Rim.
On the other end of the acting spectrum however, there are characters that just seem to scream Del Toro from their chemistry together and liven up the movie, bringing not just the laughs but and onscreen presence that seems to outshine the main players. first of you have Ron Perlman of course, playing a seedy black market trader that deals in the sale of Kaiju parts. But the stand out performances come from the film’s comic relief double act of Burn Gorman who plays a scientist studying the Aliens attack patterns to try and predict their next moves and Charlie Day, who plays… well, Charlie Day in glasses really. If separated in the story for two long then Gorman can seem overplayed and annoying, while Day would just seem out of place, but the two together really works for some reason (like if the odd couple had a $190 million budget), and brings some interest back to the boring human segments.
One of the more interesting plot points of the movie is the idea of ‘drifting’ which is a sort of Vulcan mind-melt allowing two pilots to become in-sync whilst controlling a Kaiju, a task that which would otherwise overwhelm a single pilot. This allows for back-stories and characters’ fears to become tangible elements in the plot, rather than slowing the film as a dead-end narrative.
When watching Pacific Rim do not expect to be blown away by the story if you’ve ever watched either a Summer Blockbuster, Anime, B-movie, Kaiju film or Creature Feature as this is all going seem very familiar, but then again this really is the pinnacle of an action film designed for the family and younger viewers who’re growing up in a world of Michael Bay’s Transformers and Call of Duty (who keeps buying those games for their kids anyway?).
Pacific Rim has been shot in 2D and then converted to 3D which is probably one of the more impressive conversions I’ve seen to date, avoiding the cursed ‘3D dark screen’ and actually showing some benefit to wearing the uncomfortable plastic glasses. However blurry quick cuts still cause a big problem for any viewer, so take that at your own choice.
Though it has it’s faults, I’m hoping that Pacific Rim does well enough to warrant a sequel or trilogy. The movie is harmless enough as a family film but I feel that there could be so much more done with this world and some of is characters (maybe with a new leading cast though).
- Gorgeous looking Kaiju and Jaegers really provide a feeling of realism that is far removed from either a rubber Godzilla or shiny CGI Transformer
- Amazing fight scenes that really feel like they need to be seen on the big screen to truly be appreciated
- The supporting cast really keep you hooked on the screen during a lack of action scenes
- The main cast of characters is built up of wooden characters with traits that are far too familiar and overused
- As with most huge movies that haven’t been guarantied a sequel, Pacific Rim sufferers from bloating with too much plot crammed into not enough time