I went in to Pacific Rim with a bit of a chip on my shoulder… for as much as I have always enjoyed Guillermo del Toro’s films, Pan’s Labyrinth happens to be an absolute favorite of mine, I don’t care much for giant ass-kicking robots… Michael Bay saw to that. For as much as I have always enjoyed the old Japanese monster movies, they have a particular cheesy charm to them that has always gripped me, nothing in recent memory has managed to capture my imagination as much as a dude in a cheap rubber suit stomping on a scale model of Toyko… until now. Pacific Rim is a fantastic, adrenaline pumping example of pure entertainment in the truest sense, and it defied each and every one of my negative preconceptions from the moment the film began to the final frame.
I had assumed the story would be about one monster coming up out of the ocean and mankind getting together to build a huge robot to show it who rules the planet. Oh… how wrong I was. What I didn’t realize is that the opening of the film chronicles not one monster, but a whole slew of monsters and robots over the course of many years, locked into a battle of will.
The giant creatures, called kaiju, the Japanese word for monster, rise from a breach in the ocean that is a bridge between two dimensions. After the first of the kaiju arrives, and destroys San Francisco, humanity does indeed band together to create the Jeagers, giant… and I mean GIANT, humanoid-like robots to go toe to toe with the beasts. The only catch, the operation of said machines are too much for one human brain to deal with, so they split the load between the two hemispheres of two different brains, meaning it requires two people to pilot the Jeagers and requiress the pilots to mind meld, a technique they refer to as “drifting”. The closer the bond between the two pilots, the better the drift… which is how two brothers become the rock starts of the Jeager pilot world.
All of that happens before the opening title card.
The bulk of the movie opens five years after the open, which happens to encompass about seven years… so the film spans a total of twelve years… twelve years of humanity being beaten down. Although we continue to have the upper hand over these giant beasts, the kaiju have been increasing in size, and in frequency… and the Jeagers have begun to falter.
The story focuses on one of the aforementioned brothers, Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam), who was still connected to his brother when he was killed while fighting a kaiju (the subject of the open), and has left the program to work on a wall meant to protect the Pacific edge of the US. Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), head of the Jeager program, recruits Raleigh for a last ditch effort to reengage the program and take out the kaiju once and for all.
Pacific Rim is not Citizen Kane… much of the dialogue is ham-fisted at best, and there are gaps in logic that could cause you to scream out in anger if you were to think about them too much. My suggestion would be to simply sit down and enjoy the spectacle, because it’s fun… it’s loud… it’s engaging… and for me, it is precisely what a huge summer blockbuster is meant to be.
If you’ve ever wondered what a Guillermo del Toro movie would be writ large, this is it. His first big budget film is everything you would expect from a del Toro film… fully realized future/fantasy worlds coupled with a grimness particular to him, such as a slum composed entirely of the skeletal remains of a fallen kaiju… yet still teeming with an energy that makes it come alive… and characters that come off as almost cartoonish (Ron Perlman’s character, Hannibal Chau, is a ridiculous hoot), but manage to feel right at home in a world where robots and monsters duke it out over the world’s major cities. Couple all of that with a speech by Idris Elba that seemed to come straight out of Bill Pullman’s mouth in Independence Day… what’s not to love? Plus, a female lead (Rinko Kikuchi) that is not sexualized and manages to be just as tough as any of the testosterone fueled pilots.
You have many entertainment choices during the summer months, make sure Pacific Rim is one of those choices… you won’t regret it, even if you think you don’t like movies about robots and monsters, give it a chance.
Cornelius J. Blahg