Director: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Rob Kazinsky, Ron Perlman
Rating: A category 5 Kaiju. Well, make that 3 and a half of those, out of 5. Simply put, it isn’t perfect, but it sure is a good time.
With Pacific Rim, director Guillermo del Toro said he wanted to make a gothic sci-fi. He also wanted to make an homage to the Kaiju/ Japanese monster flicks that so influenced him. He succeeds far more at the latter than the former, and that was certainly okay by me, because the result is a loud, in your face (literally, if you see it in IMAX 3D as I did which I highly recommend), sometimes silly and satisfying robot-versus-creature feature.
As a fan of del Toro’s work, especially Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth, I was a little nervous that the rain soaked action scenes would obscure the sheer attention to detail that make his beasts so beautiful. While I will admit that these Kaiju are not as intricate or nuanced as Guillermo’s signature monsters, they are probably the biggest and scariest; the evolution of their offensive tactics and the pure destruction that ensues is shot with all the haphazard glory one would expect from a big budget blockbuster, but with a lot more imagination I would argue. Because other than some formal nods to Godzilla here and there, I haven’t seen anything quite like these Kaiju before, and the action was well paced and carefully executed throughout, not to mention totally engrossing and exciting.
The film opens with the voiceover of our protagonist in what is part exposition montage and part necessary emotional flashback. From there, it’s all the campy sort of drama one could expect while watching a resistance movement comprised of “Jaeger pilots” preparing for the brink of an apocalypse wrought by violent, ultimately devious super beasts from the bottom of the sea who they don’t fully understand… While I’m not complaining about the camp factor necessarily (in fact I sort of welcomed it, especially in light of what Guillermo wanted to pay tribute to here in the first place), I think my main issue with the film was the script. That is, if I were to find an issue at all through my squirming, squealing, and screaming of course.
It’s not that the story wasn’t unique or well thought out or engaging but it left a lot sort of unsaid, like Guillermo had the funding for the effects but not for a few more quiet moments of explanation or development of some of the more high concept aspects. However, I really appreciated the detail and immersive quality of the special effects at least, and the set design too, right down to the massive Jaegers themselves, and I actually found myself wanting more of the action and less of the talking that they did devote screen time to. Don’t let anyone convince you this movie is anything like Transformers though, is partly what I’m saying I guess.
But still, the sometimes laughable dialogue itself, and the rushed quality of some of the scientific discoveries (which is a shame if only because comic relief Charlie Day and Burn Gorman were just perfect), are aspects which one really should just ignore in a film like this (if you do happen to notice it even, which you might not) because it doesn’t distract you from the enjoyment of it even a little bit. I’m not saying that a better screenplay wouldn’t have helped launch this movie out of the realm of really high quality summer popcorn-fodder and into the spectrum of more intellectual sci-fi epics, but I think it’s plenty of fun as it is currently: a perfectly adequate and well executed thrill ride of a movie filled with little surprises, heart, humor and plenty moments to cheer for.
So don’t let anyone tell you it’s not worth seeing because of any of its flaws, because its main strength outweighs them all in my opinion. And that strength is, that it is immensely entertaining to see Guillermo’s insane creativity on such a large scale (again, especially in IMAX 3D)… or maybe you do just want to see robots and monsters fighting, plain and simple. Either way, you’ve come to the right summer movie, hands down.