PACIFIC RIM, 2013
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Stars: Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day
Review by Joshua Starnes
When an alien attack threatens the Earth's existence, giant robots piloted by humans are deployed to fight off the menace.
Who doesn't like giant robots? That is the deep, philosophical at the heart of Guillermo Del Toro's "Pacific Rim." If the answer is yes, then it is definitely the movie for you. If you need a little bit more....
Years ago giant monsters started to arise from an interdimensional portal in the depths of the Pacific Ocean to ravage human cities. When traditional armies proved unequal to the task the governments of the world combine to build equally giant robots designed to give the people of the world the choice between having their cities destroyed by giant monsters or giant robots.
The main point of this thing is to get giant robots fighting giant monsters as often and violently as possible and that is where all the effort in the making of it has gone. And gone to good effect. By his own admission Del Toro is only good at making two things, scary monster movies and action monster movies and "Pacific Rim" is clearly one of the later not just in outlook but in execution with a quality level reminiscent of "Hellboy 2" and "Blade 2," and a similar mix of world-building and action.
As quickly as the Jaegar program is built up, it is just as summarily shut down so that we can have our self-described 'rock star Jaegar pilots' quickly reduced to has beens forced to scrounge parts where they can or work construction on the 'Life Wall' humanity's survivors intend to hide behind, so that we can have our rock star heroes be the underdogs big budget action films tend to require.
Two underdogs in particular - Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam), once one of the program's best and brightest until his brother was killed before his eyes, and Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), a Jaegar expert with reasons of her own for wanting to fight monsters. Because it takes two pilots working in tandem to handle such a machine the pilots must share their thoughts and minds, potentially even their personalities, completely. It's an intriguing notion, one opening up all kinds of possibilities for character interaction and conflict.
And one almost completely ignored, barring its ability to allow backstory exposition, in favor of far more cliched meanderings that have wandered over from a repeat of Top Gun. There are those who call cliche's battle tested storytelling devices, and fair enough, but at certain point they just become repetitive and if you've ever seen another action movie before there is nothing new or interesting about the people who live in the "Pacific Rim" universe Del Toro has so meticulously created. And that's the ones who actually get to speak - most of the robot pilots are defined entirely by their look and the country they come from.
It's abundantly clear what everyone is most interested in are the robots and the robot fighting. The colorful battles and fantastic visuals courtesy of cinematographer Guillermo Navarro and the wizards at Industrial Light and Magic are excellent, though they might give you epilepsy, particularly the fight in a downtown Asian metropolis.
But for all the sturm und drang, the robots can only remain on screen for so long and when the people show up the lack of depth or humanity drags "Pacific Rim" way down. It's particularly disappointing from a director like Del Toro who has frequently shown a preference for developing well-rounded, often surprising characters to inhabit his intricately detailed worlds.
But not this time. This time it's all about the giant engines of destruction pounding on each other - like the recent torture porn craze of horror films expanded to city level scale - covered over by elements pulled from dozens of other movies. It's enjoyable enough on a visceral level - Del Toro is too skilled a craftsman for it to be otherwise - but underneath all the destruction, there's very little to "Pacific Rim" at all.