The idea of gargantuan dinosaur monsters emerging from deep within the Pacific Ocean only to be met by enormous, agile, metal robots built by humans to counter them at first listen sounds awful. A Godzilla retread perhaps? A Transformers rip-off you say? No sir, Pacific Rim, to this reviewer’s surprise, is quite good.
These clunky machines are no transformers. They move slowly, they do not change shape, and humans stationed in the machine’s head pilot them. Unlike Jaws, Pacific Rim does not hide its monster. The audience knows what these things look like during the film’s first minute. They resemble the Cloverfield monster but move much faster.
It takes two people to move these giant machine saviors and their minds must connect with one another for the contraption to move in sync. Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) was one of the best pilots ever to climb into the cerebral cockpit. After a traumatic experience fighting one of the monsters, called kaiju (Japanese for strange beast), Raleigh becomes a drifter getting by with menial construction gigs.
The kaiju keep on coming and they are getting stronger. The major cities bordering the Pacific, San Francisco, Tokyo, Hong Kong, etc… are either obliterated or under persistent attack. The major powers of the world came together to build the giant machines, but these machines are getting old and ever weaker to the monsters evolving abilities.
Marshal Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), the man in charge of the new machine force tracks down Raleigh to bring him back and pair him with a new co-pilot, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi). It helps that Mako is quite good looking and forms an immediate sexual tension with Raleigh. There are also run-ins with other pilots, both old and new, bad memories from better days, and even maddening bureaucratic interference from the United Nations about the future of the machine program.
A major reason Pacific Rim works so well is due to its very strong supporting cast. Idris Elba has been a welcome screen presence since he showed up as Stringer Bell on The Wire. Rinko Kukuchi was nominated for her role in Babel, and Ron Perlman, Clifton Collins, Jr., and Charlie Day also lend considerable weight to roles that would otherwise be cast by much lesser known actors to save some money. Day is quite similar to his manic and screechy It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia role playing the chief researcher in charge of studying the monsters. The research team comes off almost cartoonish, bordering on ridiculous, but having Day serve as a sort of comic foil to take a break from the relentless machine on monster fights works well.
As for the action scenes, Pacific Rim is by far and away the loudest movie I have ever heard. The IMAX 3D theatre is worth the extra bucks and your eardrums will react as if you were just at a concert. I pity the film showing next door; I have no doubt the sound bleeds through. There is also extensive urban destruction as the machines and monsters fighting almost always downtown are the size of skyscrapers. Building after building is obliterated, yet it still seems like less arbitrary damage than Man of Steel inflicted last month.
Set aside your immediate impressions of the plot description when someone tells you it is about giant robots battling giant dinosaur monsters. Yes, it is about that, but there is a lot more going on and it is saturated in style because it is a Guillermo del Toro film (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy). I’m not saying you should force your girlfriend/wife to sit through Pacific Rim, but it has so much more going for it than machine vs. monster.
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Written by: Travis Beacham, Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Max Martini, Clifton Collins, Jr., Ron Perlman, Burn Gorman, Robert Kazinsky