Pacific Rim, 2013
Directed by Guillermo del Toro.
Written by Travis Beacham and Guillermo del Toro.
Starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman and Ron Perlman.
When an alien attack threatens the Earth’s existence, giant robots piloted by humans are deployed to fight off the menace.
As one of the few big budget movies this year not based on pre-existing material, “industry experts” have already spelled out Hollywood Doom for Pacific Rim, with many sources claiming people are more interested in seeing Adam Sandler’s Grown Ups 2. The movie has also had a lot of negative social media reactions (before seeing the film), claiming it to be a simple Transformers knock-off or that it looks like Tron had a movie baby with the Power Rangers.
But, even with all that negativity before its release, Pacific Rim has come out as the best of this year’s summer blockbusters.
As Guillermo del Toro and Travis Beacham’s love letter to kaiju-eiga movies of the 60s and 70s, Pacific Rim is a science fiction story that will appeal to monster movie fans as well as please those who just want to see big robots hitting bigger aliens. Set in the not-too-distant-future, aliens have made their way into our world through a cross-dimensional portal at the centre of the Pacific Rim. These creatures, dubbed Kaiju (the Japanese word for “strange beast”), were putting humanity in peril until the Jaeger program was put into place – giant mechs controlled by the human brain to combat these evil creatures. However the program is deemed unsuitable to sustain their existence so a new plan is put into place, but not before one final battle.
Not only is Pacific Rim the best looking movie in this summer’s blockbuster releases, it’s also the most fun. As the great Richard Donner once said, ‘take the material seriously, but not yourself’ and that’s exactly what del Toro has done here. There is a sense of joy about Pacific Rim that is missing from modern cinema. The sort of joy and fun you got from watching blockbusters in the late 90s, early 2000s.
However, this is one of the movie’s big problems. Because Pacific Rim doesn’t take itself too seriously, the more character driven moments or human drama elements of the movie could be met with laughs rather than tears. A lot of the dialogue is very hokey and corny and almost every performance is a scenery-chewing spectacle. It’s almost amazing there’s any scenery left after some of the more ‘dramatic’ scenes. Idris Elba in particular is at his over-the-top best while Charlie Humman comes off as more of a joke than a serious actor. However the crowing achievement of cheesy acting belongs to Max Martini and Robert Kazinsky as the Australian father-son pilot team who have one of the more laughable ‘human’ moments. Jonathan and Clark, this is not.
There could also be a point of contention from those who do not enjoy the ‘comedy relief’ portion of big budget movies. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman play two scientists with contrasting theories of how to stop the Kaiju from attacking but both do it in a wacky style that will either annoy or entertain. They are integral to the plot which makes their comedy work, but there is a chance they could turn off a lot of the audience.
But that’s not to say that Pacific Rim is stupid. Far from it. If anything, this is one of the more intelligent science fiction movies of recent memory (with Inception being the last port of call). Beacham and del Toro bring so many ideas to the table within one movie that it almost feels like the running time isn’t long enough to support them all. Those who’ve read the prequel comic Tales From Year Zero may find some disappointment that the movie doesn’t follow up on some of the deeper issues, but the the movie never feels like its bogged down with Basil Exposition. It chooses its plot points carefully, which does allow for other avenues to be explored in other mediums like comic books, novels video games etc.
With all that said, at the end of the day Pacific Rim was not about human interactions or Oscar-bating performances, this was a movie of action – and it delivers it full force. After quite a lull during the middle act, Pacific Rim suits up in Jaegers for an arse kicking feast and it’s absolutely breath taking. Del Toro chooses his shots wisely so that you get to see the detail of everything around you. You know who is who and you know who is hitting what. There is no fast pace cutting to mask the CGI or give you the false pretence of frenetic action, you get to savour every moment of the fight and you feel every punch. There is an argument to be made that there isn’t enough of these action sequences (as there are only a couple) but when they do arrive, they time themselves out well and they never outstay their welcome.
A lot of credit should also be given to the filmmakers for the designs of the Kaiju and the Jaegers. As one would imagine from the director of Hellboy and Pans Labyrinth, each monster and mech feels unique and they all have their own individual backstories, which further immerses you into their world. This is not like the Transformers trilogy where everything looks the same and the characters are interchangeable, a lot of thought and time was put into these behemoths and the movie is all the better for it.
Pacific Rim is an incredible amount of fun. And that’s the key word here, ‘fun’. You can easily pick apart the movie and say that the middle portion does sag the film down and the forced character developments are pretty weak, but it delivers on the action front in spades with a sense of joy and wonderment. From a personal standpoint, I’d have liked to have seen more time spent on the characters to make this a truly great movie, but I guarantee years down the line people will look back at Pacific Rim with the same fondness they do for movies like Independence Day. It won’t win Best Movie of the Year, it might not even make the top 5, but Pacific Rim is easily the best of 2013’s event movies.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
You can listen to the Flickering Myth Pacific Rim review podcast here.