Review: 'Pacific Rim'


By: Heather Seebach

Big-budget blockbusters are not typically covered on this blog, but Pacific Rim is special for two reasons:

1) It is co-written/directed by Guillermo del Toro who is no stranger to horror with films like The Devil's Backbone and Cronos under his belt.

2) It is a love-letter to kaij┼ź eiga, or Japanese monster movies.

For those reasons, it should not be missed by anyone reading this. The film is a crossover success because it delivers on the summer blockbuster-sized action but also appeals to the nerdier subculture of filmgoers who love horror, sci-fi, manga, anime, etc.

When a subterranean rift unleashes giant monsters (kaijus) upon the world, humankind retaliates with Jaegers, giant fighting machines controlled by human pilots. But when the kaijus start winning the war, the Jaeger program is dismantled in favor of a fortified walls. The program's pioneer (Idris Elba), however, is not ready to give up and enlists former pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) to lead an effort to stop the kaijus once and for all. Becket is aided by a gifted young female pilot (Rinko Kikuchi), leading Jaeger pilots from around the world, and a research team (Charlie Day, Burn Gorman) studying the kaijus.  

The basic concept of Pacific Rim has been done before - man-powered mechas (robots) date back to the 70s with Mazinger Z, and kaiju's (or giant beasts) of course go back to Gojira in the 1950s. What Pacific Rim does is combine the best elements of those sub-genres and modernizes them with incredible special FX. So to all the people crying "rip-off" over Robot Jox or Evangelion, I call bullshit. Much like the weak "Hunger-Games-ripped-off-Battle-Royale" argument, some people are more interesting in proving they've heard of semi-obscure titles than giving a decent movie a chance. Del Toro's film takes the basic elements made famous by Japan and turns them into a fun actioner that all ages and nations can appreciate. 


None of the actors are particularly remarkable, but they do the job suitably enough. The screenplay, while not without minor plotholes, is actually pretty engaging and fun, albeit a bit too long. Based on the trailers, I expected it to begin with the kaiju's showing up, then at least an hour spent developing and trying out the Jaegers, but it actually leaps right into the meat and potatoes of the story. So we immediately get giant robot-on-monster action! There is much emphasis on "neural handshakes" and how the human pilots are able to mentally link with one another and the machines. There is also a lot dealing with the kaijus themselves, making them more than one-note beasts, which I appreciated.

One of my absolute favorite things about this world is how the Jaegers and the kaijus each have their own looks, names, special weapons, etc. It recalls the 80s cartoons of my childhood that made me want to run out and collect every trading card. Even the human characters feel like stereotypes lifted from G.I. Joe and I mean that in the best way possible! The film made me feel 13 again and that, I suspect, is exactly what del Toro was shooting for.

Pacific Rim is not a deep film, and it was never meant to be. Sometimes the goal is simply to entertain, and to do so with passion and skill is rare these days. Movies like Transformers or Battleship are cluster-fucks of soul-less CGI, whereas this one gives us the monster epic of our dreams with flawless visuals and a palpable sense of appreciation for the genres it emulates. Oh, and make sure you see this one in the theater! It is far too stunning to be seen on the small screen. So get your butt to the cinema, grab some popcorn, and sit back in awe like you did when you were a kid.



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