I’ve grown to accept that trying to persuade the masses of the internet is like to trying push back a tidal wave. It’s a futile goal. However, that being said, I’d like to preface this review with a simple request: Don’t make up your mind before seeing the final product. And really, this has to go both ways. When the first trailer for “Pacific Rim” was released, I saw way too many people instantly deciding that this was either the worst movie ever or the best. Very few people ever say “This movie does/doesn’t align with my tastes. I am/am not interested in seeing it.” And, despite what my grandma may say, I’m not a perfect saint. I struggle with this urge to jump to conclusions as well. However, It pays to keep an open mind about things, you’ll find that your world experience will be greatly enhanced.
But you didn’t come here to get a lesson in internet mannerisms, you want to know how rad it is when a robot hits a giant monster in the face. The answer? Totally rad.
Set in the not too distant future, a giant rift has opened up in the Pacific ocean that has allowed horrible monsters (called Kaiju) to invade our planet. After narrowly defeating the first wave with tanks and missiles, the nations of the world decide to ban together to create a legion of giant robots (Jaegers) to fight off the menace. Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) is the hard-ass general who heads up the program and takes up the challenge of enlisting people to pilot the Jaegers. When the Jaegers are scrapped and the Kaiju become a far greater threat, Stacker turns to a troubled pilot named Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and rookie cadet Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) to formulate a plan to end the threat once and for all.
“Pacific Rim” is the first film director Guillermo del Toro has directed in five years, a fact that is interestingly juxtaposed with the main character who is returning to the Jaeger program after a five year absence as well. However, the man hasn’t lost any of his skill. In fact, the five year absence seems to have served him well. When “At the Mountain of Madness” fell through and left del Toro without a film to work on, he immediately threw himself into “Pacific Rim” and began planning every detail in the film. His goal was to create a rich and tangible world, populated with believable characters and a story with plenty of background. Ultimately, I think he succeeded. Within the first 10 minutes, they manage to set up the structure of the world and ease viewers into all of the strange and unique concepts that come with a sci-fi film of this nature.
While the idea behind the movie may seem superfluous and silly with its emphasis on giant robot action, it never feels transparent or flimsy. “Pacific Rim” doesn’t fall into the typical blockbuster movie trappings of having a US-centric global threat. In a welcomed change, this movie doesn’t focus on how awesome America is, but instead shows how great we could be as citizens of the world if we banded together in the face of adversity. The film tries very hard to destroy barriers and represent the world in a unified manner. This creates underlying themes of friendship, respect and sacrifice that run throughout the film. Admittedly, it’s a bit hokey at times, but it feels natural in a film like this. The plot feels like a mashup between a 1950’s sci-fi film and an anime about giant mechs. It has flimsy B.S. science, melodramatic overtones, and plenty of quirky side characters. It sounds bad, but if you grew up loving those sort of elements then you’ll appreciate the way “Pacific Rim” pays tribute to them.
One of the main drawbacks of the film was the performances of the two leads. While some might say that the acting fits with the melodramatic tones of the film, it can be a little off putting at times. Charlie Hunnam, in particular, comes off a little wooden and flat, but still manages to be charming and loveable. Meanwhile, Rinko Kikuchi has some of the cheesiest bits of dialog I’ve ever heard outside of an anime. However, when she yells “For my family!” and fucks up a Kaiju, it leaves you feeling so pumped. There are a lot of moments in the movie where cheesy and awesome manage to go hand and hand. Guillermo is able to achieve this equilibrium by never letting the movie get too serious for it’s own good. Despite the gravity of the situation the story, acting, and action never lose sight of the fact that this is supposed to be a fun movie.
And yes, let’s talk about that action. The biggest compliment I can pay to “Pacific Rim” is that I never felt like I was watching CGI characters fight. I equate it to the first time I saw a dinosaur in Jurassic Park. I didn’t think I was looking at fancy CGI, I thought “Holy crap, that’s a dinosaur!” I got the same feeling when I saw a Kaiju and Jaeger come face to face. It was able to tap into that raw childlike joy that resides in my brain and send chills down my spine. Best of all, the fights don’t happen for the sake of having big fights, they actually serve the story. Every action scene is an integral stepping stone in the journey of Charlie and Rinko’s characters.
“Pacific Rim” is the summer movie cinephiles have been clamoring for for years. It’s not a sequel, not a comic book adaptation, and doesn’t star Paul Walker. It’s an amazing movie experience that can be shared with the whole family. I cannot recommend it enough. A couple of side notes for those that are wondering, the 3D is pretty well done. I don’t think it’s necessary to see it in 3D, but you wont regret doing it either. Also, be sure to stay till after the credits. There’s a special little stinger fans will enjoy.