The last time giant robots were in theaters, we were sitting through the lifeless and hollow project of Michael Bay’s Transformers. But here comes Guillermo del Toro, to show that you can bring life amongst all the metal and CGI. It’s a film that swings big, is larger than life and is more enjoyable if you don’t think too much about it. I’m always cynical about films like this: giants robots fighting giant monsters, which means they destroy things and they explode things and really that is all there is but Pacific Rim is slightly different. There is love and fun that pours out of this film. Like Del Toro inviting us to be children with him this one time.
The premise of Pacific Rim is really simple and kind of silly, seriously, try not to roll your eyes or laugh after I’m done. So these monsters, dubbed Kaiju, have invaded Earth not from Space but from the bottom of the ocean floor. The creatures become too much for the current military to handle so obviously their answer was giant freaking robots, called Jaegers. The Jaegers were good but then the Kaiju stepped up their attacks, which is where this film picks up at. It is the last days of humanity and the world is gathering for one final attack. This brings ex-Jaeger pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam), his new co-pilot Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), wacky scientist Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day), a black market Kaiju parts dealer, Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman), and their fearless leader, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba).
As I said in my intro, Pacific Rim goes big. Every, single, monster versus machine fight scene is absolutely stunning. Even if you didn’t like the characters, the story, or whatever, you will not walk away without being mesmerized by the visual feat that Del Toro and his crew have achieved. The choreography in those fights are brilliant and they lend an outstanding believability. It all instantly helped to sell me on this world. You have a world that could easily be confused with one imagined by a 12 year old but even through all the giddy fun, you know Del Toro is having, he somehow manages to capture all that wonder and bring out our inner 12 year olds. When these fight scenes happen they distract you from some of the problems the film has, especially that of story and character.
It was definitely refreshing to see so much focus put on the characters but it isn’t that great. You’ve seen similar character types in other films Hunnam plays it mostly straight never going beyond the role. Kikuchi plays her role as, the little girl with the big eyes. This makes her seem more cartoonish as opposed to feeling like a real person. Their story is obviously the typical boy meets girl. They fight, he likes her spirit and her tough lady skills, they must overcome their past and team-up to save the world. We’ve seen this before, also their relationship is never defined, a giant question mark till the end. Like what would their Facebook status read: in a relationship, friends, etc. It’s extremely vague and in most cases it can be ignored but when the characters are paper thin, it stands out.
The rest of the ensemble is entertaining to watch but a lot are walking cliches and stereotypes. You have the Japan Jaeger team that look like Shaolin monks, complete with the playing basketball scene. You have the Russian Jaeger team that could pass off as Dolph Ludgren’s long lost cousins. You also have the one character who’s a dick, Chuck Hansen (Robert Kazinsky), who is meant to give Hunnam’s character a hard time, until he learns his lesson at the end. All I can say is Top Gun did it better. On the other hand, Chuck’s relationship with his father Herc Hansen (Max Martini) has the emotional gut punch I was looking for in this film. Martini deserves most of the credit for it.
Day’s Dr. Geiszler, Perlman’s Chau and Gorman’s Dr. Gottlieb are all charming and funny but you can’t help but feel that their in a different movie from everyone else. Their characters don’t fit into the movie really well and can sometimes come off as over the top. They make the human element of the film more enjoyable but you can’t help but feel like they’re distracting you from the main plot of giant robots fighting giant monsters.
The best character of the film is Elba’s Pentecost. I’ve always been a fan of Elba’s ever since I saw him in HBO’s The Wire. He has this innate ability to breathe life into any character, in any circumstance. He’s inspiring, caring, authoritative and feels like a human being. He is the one element, apart from the robot fight scenes, that works in this film.
There was too much exposition and not enough action. I wanted more robots, more giant monsters, and more boat bats. The exposition never felt tiring or unwanted but when the action is so damn good, you want more. It’s hard enjoying this film if you are not channelling your inner child. This will definitely hurt the film in the eyes of some but just channel your memories of you as a child watching Power Rangers…or whatever else you like.
Pacific Rim is an enjoyable film. The action is extremely satisfying. A story is there but it is predictable. Characters exists but aren’t drawn out in enough depth. If you shut off your mind and not question what unfolds on screen, Pacific Rim will be some of the most fun you’ll have at the theaters. For me it shows that you can make a good film about giant robots, nudge-wink-Transformers. I just wanted more Jaegers versus Kaijus fights, which I felt weren’t spaced properly. Pacific Rim feels like those Sunday morning cartoons you grew up watching but like Elvis Presley said, “A little less conversation, a little more action please,” would have helped.
Score: 7.5 out of 10