Just go see this movie, and come back. Nothing I can say can really do the sheer scope and spectacle that Guillermo del Toro has brought to life within ‘Pacific Rim.’ This is ‘Avengers’ big, people. This is the movie we’ve been waiting for ever since we would make our toys fight each other, or pretend we were giants terrorizing the city.
The main reason I delayed this review was to hopefully allow some time so I can just fanboy out, and not oversell the movie. Now that it has been a few days, I think I can appropriately remove myself…somewhat. Expect a full amount of geekgasms throughout the review. It’s nice to have a movie that I actually have a lot to say about. The past few weeks have been filled with a mediocre metonymy filled with movies like ‘World War Z’ and ‘The Lone Ranger.’ It’s great to have a breath of fresh air in the form of a giant robot.
“When legions of monstrous creatures, known as Kaiju, started rising from the sea, a war began that would take millions of lives and consume humanitys resources for years on end. To combat the giant Kaiju, a special type of weapon was devised: massive robots, called Jaegers, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge. But even the Jaegers are proving nearly defenseless in the face of the relentless Kaiju. On the verge of defeat, the forces defending mankind have no choice but to turn to two unlikely heroes-a washed up former pilot (Charlie Hunnam) and an untested trainee (Rinko Kikuchi)-who are teamed to drive a legendary but seemingly obsolete Jaeger from the past. Together, they stand as mankinds last hope against the mounting apocalypse.” – Warner Bros.
I should really start off with the element of this movie that is going to get asses in the seats: giant robots fighting giant monsters. Not since ‘The Raid: Redemption’ have a seen a movie deliver on a premise that, while ultimately familiar, revitalized a genre in way that makes me cheer. The sheer scope of the Jaegers and Kaiju are just jaw-dropping. Del Toro is a director that excels at putting his boundless imagination on to the screen, and it is quite clear that this is a movie he was born to direct. Every single frame of the film is pure del Toro. Something that I couldn’t help but noticing is that every creature and robot has a weight to it. While the premise is incredibly absurd, there is a grounded element to the fantastically. Every part of the Jaeger has a purpose and works like an actually machine would. Every Kaiju is beautiful, and resembles so Earth animal in one respect or another. And when they fight? HOLY SHIT. I literally said that (probably way too loud) more than once during the Battle of Hong Kong sequence. This is effects porn done right. It’s excessive, but it never overstays its welcome. See this in IMAX 3-D. Seeing it in any less format is an injustice to yourself.
From what I can tell, the biggest criticisms are stemming from the human aspect of the film with some arguing that the human characters are not interesting and cliche. There is some truth to these accretions as most of the archetypes on display here have been seen numerous times before in similar films. We have a grizzled vet with a past, a book-smart newcomer, the comic relief nerds, the asshole Iceman-like character with a heart of gold, and even an angry black authority figure. Hell, you could argue this is like every buddy cop movie mixed with ‘Independence Day’ and ‘Destroy All Monsters,’ with a little ‘Evangelion’ thrown in for good measure. However, unlike every Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay movie ever, the archetypes here have a little more depth to them which I accredit to solid writing and a great cast. Take Charlie Hunnam for example. He plays the main hero, Raleigh Becket, (the names in this movie are a nightmare for spell check) a character type that I think has existed since the invention of fire. At this point, the role would normally be expected to quite vanilla. However, Hunnam is talented enough to make me care about a character that I would otherwise yawn at the thought of. The same could be said about the entire cast. My crush on Rinko Kikuchi that began in ‘The Brothers Bloom” is only strengthened here. I think the scene where she first steps into the drift is just fantastic. Idris Elba is reliably badass, while also providing the film with some much needed heart. (He has my vote for the next Batman.) There are a lot of complaints concerning the subplot concerning the two scientists played by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman with a lot of critics equating them to annoying comedic relief. While they do provide the film with a majority of its lighter moments, I found there segments some of the best in the film that didn’t involve a robot beating the shit out of a monster with an oil tanker. It’s refreshing to see the smart guys take an active part in the action for once. This is a global crisis where not every problem can be solved with fisticuffs. Also, fuck anyone that thinks more Charlie Day in any movie is a bad thing.
There’s just a lot of great mold breaking to found here. This is the first big budget film where the stakes feel a lot bigger than to the constant threats we’ve seen to the United States in film. There isn’t a forced love story to slow the film down..at least for now. One could argue that Becket and Mako are attracted to one another, and the story is leading to them hooking up, but I would also argue that they have Drifted together. That led me to believe that they are now connected in a way that isn’t necessarily romantic, and that is honestly refreshing. We hardly see relationships between men and women in movies that aren’t romantic so here’s hoping if there is a sequel that they keep it platonic or at least find an interesting way to put a romantic spin on their relationship. I also appreciated the overall lack of cynism in the film as it didn’t serve only as an extended toy commercial which is pretty surprising given the subject at hand. Hell, that makes me almost want there to be toys even more. I would have killed for a movie like this when I was a kid. I grew up with Godzilla, Gamera, and the giant monsters of Ray Harryhausen but to have something this scale, I find myself envious of the kids that now get to grow up with it, and collect all of the action figures. There aren’t any shit/dick jokes, no vapid pop music filling the soundtrack, no blatant product placement, or an over abundance of pop culture references. I guess you could say that this is a “Michael Bay-esque” movie done right. The common troupes are there, but the cynism isn’t. This wasn’t a shameless cash grap. Hard work, and thought went into this movie. It’s what separates it from a majority of films that have come out this summer. It has an overjoyed geeky heart beating within its giant metallic shell.
The film is fantastic in the sense that it entertains, but never talks down to its audience. This is a film by a nerd, who happens to be one of the most talented storytellers of his generation, given access to the best sandbox imaginable, and we get to witness it. Del Toro is one of us, and it is a joy to see the guy get the keys to a property as big as this. Here’s hoping Disney wises up, and lets him do something with Star Wars.
It’s sad to see this come in second to “Grown-Ups 2” (shivers), as I want to see more movies like this: a basic concept executed well and is fun to watch in and of itself, not a moody hero’s journey movie of a superhero we already know that’s just setting up for more mediocre sequels. But where that movie will ultimately be forgotten, I foresee PR staying in the public’s memory for years to come.
Now, I am sorry for the delay of this review. Hopefully whatever comes next will come in a timely fashion. I’m thinking something video game related.