Pacific Rim, by Guillermo del Toro, could be this summer’s surprise hit amongst a few long established, juggernaut-sized franchises. This modern take on the Japanese Kaiju film is packed full of big screen action and special effects that will keep your inner-awesome meter redlined throughout its 132 minute run time. Guillermo, with the help of his cast and crew, has crafted a beautiful science fiction film that any fan of the genre will appreciate, and liking the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers isn’t a requirement.
This monster-apocalypse film is pure visual love, and its simple plot allows the Kaijus and Jaegers to take center stage as they battle for the right to control the planet. The story doesn’t interfere with the Avengers-sized action by requiring you to process deep concepts and theories, which works quite well for a film of this nature. Pacific Rim is truly a movie about humanity’s last ditch effort to eradicate skyscraper-sized beasts that emerged from a mysterious portal-like opening at the bottom of the ocean in the pacific rim region of the world. It doesn’t try to be anything more by introducing deep character development and political intrigue, rather it provides just enough insight into the world and its characters to make you care.
A brief introductory scene sets up the universe and explains how and when the Kaiju attacks first started taking place, as well as the creation of the Jaeger program, which is humanity’s last ditch effort to defend themselves against the nearly unstoppable monsters. The opening 10-minutes also serve as an introduction to Pacific Rim’s main character, Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam), who is one of the best Jaeger pilots in the world. Under the command of Stacker Pentecost, played by Idris Elba, Raleigh and his older brother (Jaegers require two pilots working as one brain to function) get dispatched to take care of a category 4 Kaiju (think big as f*ck), and things don’t go so well.
Five years later humans begin to lose the battle against the Kaijus as the fluorescent accented monsters start to get smarter and adapt their abilities to easily defeat the hulking Jaeger squads. The remaining world leaders decide to pull funding from the Jaeger program and invest it into massive barrier walls to keep the Kaijus out of Earth’s major metropolises. This plan proves to be futile, so Pentecost takes matters into his own hands and rounds up the last remaining Jaegers and their pilots, including the jaded Becket, to make one final offensive strike against the gateway allowing the monsters to enter our world.
This moment is when Pacific Rim really hits its stride and begins to offer some amazing action set pieces that look breathtaking on the big screen. The cinematography is done in a way that keeps the ultra large frenetic action from becoming a deluge of fast moving images in your brain, and doesn’t remotely resemble the robot on robot spin cycle from the recent Transformer films.
The computer generated Jaegers and Kaijus look extremely life-like, and had a sense of weight to them that added to their massive scale. Even though they were purely digital, each massive combatant still felt like they were real, and not just a bunch of frames rotoscoped into a green screen background. The use of real life sets and detailed costumes also helped to sell the feeling that these giant entities and their pilots could exist in our universe, so del Toro made sure to not make just another summer blockbuster full of nothing but computer generated imagery and action.
What surprised me the most about the look of this film is the fact that it sports some of the best looking 3D effects since Avatar. The extra sense of depth added to the sheer size of the Pacific Rim universe, and made it feel alive. The effect provided somewhat of an amusement park ride experience without the feeling of dizziness that sometimes accompanies a 3D movie, or ride. The visuals are definitely the star of this movie, and they were greatly enhanced in 3D, so it’s highly advisable to give the tech another chance if you’ve been turned off by it in the past.
The biggest downside to this wildly entertaining and visually stunning movie is that some of the acting performances are a little too generic in nature. Hunnam has always had a strange acting style, and its present in Pacific Rim. He felt like his Jax character from Sons of Anarchy minus the biker mentality. His California surfer dude meets tough guy persona seemed like more of the same, and he didn’t do much to make Raleigh stick out from his biker alter ego.
His co-star and Jaegar partner, Mako, played by Rinko Kikuchi, also gave a lackluster performance. She never made me feel like she was more than just a real life version of an Asian anime character. It was as if del Toro told her to watch the cutscenes from every Japanese RPG over the last decade, so she could learn how to act like a high-pitched damsel in distress from a Final Fantasy game. Her character tried to come off as a strong female lead, but Kikuchi’s portrayal of her made the character slightly hollow and meek.
Overall, Pacific Rim is a blast of a good time, and the definition of a summer blockbuster. Like many geeks I was reluctant to buy into the concept after I first heard about it, but the solid trailers released for it convinced me that it had potential. After a viewing that potential is definitely a reality.
The detailed and near perfect special effects give Pacific Rim an awesome feel, and the straight forward plot is both entertaining and clear to follow. Watching massive robots controlled by humans take on monsters that make Godzilla look like an iguana is more fun than you can imagine, and the 3D effect will remind you of why it became a new gimmick in modern film making. Pacific Rim is the movie to see if you just simply enjoy getting lost in your imagination for a few hours while you escape the doldrums of real life.
(All adjectives in the video below apply)