Review – Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim Poster

From deep beneath the Pacific, giant other-worldly monsters have begun to appear, bent on human destruction.  To defend itself, humanity has created equally giant fighting machines.  For a while, it seemed like people were winning the war, but that’s about to change.

Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) is one half of what used to be one of the top teams of Jaeger (the giant robot-like machines) pilots.  After suffering a hard loss, Raleigh takes an defensive job instead, building a wall that is hoped to be able to keep the Kaiju (the giant monsters) at bay.  As it becomes clearer and clearer that humanity is on the brink of losing the war, he’s brought back into the fold by his former CO (Idris Elba) to take part in a final decisive strike.

The cast is mostly composed of character and television actors – the majority with which the average movie goer is probably not that familiar.  It includes Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman, Burn Gorman, and Robert Kazinsky.  In an homage to her recognizable GLaDOS from the Portal game franchise, Ellen McLain provides the voice of the computer AI.

Famed Mexican director Guillermo del Toro presents us with his biggest and most expensive film to date.  And boy is it big.  And expensive looking.  And really, really big.  As always, del Toro expertly combines computer graphics with practical effects to create a rich and fantastical world.  Pacific Rim undoubtedly utilizes CG far more than any of this previous films, yet it never feels lifeless thanks to his attention to detail.  Some could argue that the machines even have more life to them than some of the actors.

It’s true, there is a bit less depth to the characters and plot of this film than some of del Toro’s previous work, but this movie is all about the visuals, and boy does it look wonderful.  The tremendous scale of the beasts – both man-made and alien – is absolutely ridiculous.  Unlike the oft compared Transformers, these metal giants stay consistent in scale and are shown next to enough people and buildings to continually remind you of just how large that scale is.  I may be harping on how large these creations are, but the fact is, they never lose their awe inspiring presence on the screen.  To me, because everything fills the same screen, often times in movies things like giant robots just don’t seem as impressive.  Perspective is lost.  Not here.  You want giant fighting machines?  You will get giant fighting machines.  And monsters.

Not only is everything big, it looks great.  Again, the attention to detail and the quality of the sets and effects – practical and special – is top notch.  More often than not, I feel like IMAX and 3D are a waste of money.  Not this time.  This is the best 3D I’ve seen since Avatar, and it looks completely gorgeous on a giant screen.

Enough about how the film looks though.  The story is riddled with clichés, but I would argue that’s a good thing.  Many Americas are going to look at this as another Transformers or Battleship when that couldn’t be further from the truth.  This is a mecha anime (giant robot’s with people piloting them) come to life, combined with classic Japanese Kaiju films like Godzilla.  Though I’ve only seen clips, what this should probably be compared to instead is Neon Genesis Evangelion.  As I said, the story is riddled with clichés in the form of all the standard tropes, conventions, and archetypes you would expect, and want, from an Anime film come to life.  It doesn’t try to reinvent the genre, but fits very nicely into it, comfortably.  While it will seem familiar, in a welcoming way, to fans of the genre, I would say that there has never been anything quite like it in American cinema.  In that respect, it’s extremely original.

It’s not a perfect film and it does have its drawbacks.  Character development is one of them.  In exchange for not being mind numbingly long, and devoting plenty of time to what we came to see – the battles – we don’t get a whole lot of time to learn about the characters.  Normally I would be glad for a film that dives right into the meat of the story rather than giving us gratuitous back story and set up.  This time, though, the world that del Toro presents to us is so rich and fascinating that I would have liked to have seen more of it.  Entire periods of the story are glossed over with voice overs and montages.  Pacific Rim almost feels like the third chapter in a trilogy that I would have liked to have watched from the beginning.  But oh what a final chapter it is.

Mrs. Hamster says:

“It was just Power Rangers, except awesome instead of cheesy.  And the CG was incredible.”

My Rating:  Four out of Five Hats

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Trailer:

Pacific Rim battles its way into 3,275 theaters, July 12, in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D