Spoiler Free Movie Review: “Pacific Rim”

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Rating

Rating:
  • Release Date: 7/12/2013
  • Running Time: 132 minutes
  • Written By: Guillermo del Toro, Travis Beacham
  • Directed By: Guillermo del Toro
  • Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman, Max Martini, Burn Gorman, Diego Klattenhoff, Robert Kazinsky, Clifton Collins Jr., Brad William Henke, Larry Joe Campbell

Spoiler Free Movie Review: “Pacific Rim”

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I’m going to try my damnedest not to spoil a thing about this movie.

The uber fans of kaiju and monster movies have been waiting for this one for a while, so I am merely here to say that it’s worth the wait, and that it has practically everything you could want. Everything about PACIFIC RIM is huge. Its scope, its scale, its ambition, its characters, its action, its destruction, its world, its two giant kaiju hearts.

If you’ve seen the myriad of trailers, featurettes, interviews, concept art, and TV spots for the film, you knew this project was a spectacular undertaking that was going to go places. But it goes even further than I expected. The first part of the film provides the background for the kaiju, their entrance through another dimension known as the “Breach” deep underwater, their continuing attacks on mankind, and mankind’s response: the Jaeger program. It’s a testament to the world del Toro and company have created that I wanted to hit the pause button on the action, or at least slow it down, because you’re just flying through beautiful FX, creatures and immaculate destruction, and sometimes you just want to take it all in, and marvel at the technical wizardry.

But there’s hardly any moments of respite in PACIFIC RIM. I think, especially at the beginning, that this is sometimes off-putting, because we’re flying through huge chunks of story and time. This movie has a much more sprawling narrative than I expected, but once Charlie Hunnam’s Raleigh Becket returns to the Jaeger program, a resistance program to fight the kaiju under the strict, magnanimous leadership of Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba, as commanding, intimidating and magnetic as ever. Give this guy a franchise, or three, already), the movie soars into kaiju/jaeger bliss, with a rocking soundtrack from Ramin Djawadi that HAS to get your adrenaline pumping.

Hunnam’s Raleigh used to be one of the rock-star Jaeger pilots in the golden age of the program, one-half of the dynamic duo piloting the American robot Gypsy Danger. Now, he and new partner Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi, fantastic) are bringing the old guy out of retirement, helping the last line of human defense against the bigger, badder, and more powerful kaiju that are popping up more and more frequently.

Meanwhile, Charlie Day gets to play himself as neurotic neuroscientist Dr. Newton Geiszler, who is maybe a little too fascinated by the kaiju. He and math wiz Gottlieb (the wonderfully weird Burn Gorman) are trying to figure out the kaiju puzzle through… science (don’t expect a lot of it to make a ton of sense, or get more than a cursory explanation; just gleefully accept it and move on)! Add in a terrifically smarmy, greasy Ron Perlman as Hannibal Chau (just wait for his succinct explanation of the name), and the idiosyncratic is well represented.

It’s clear that the WB and Legendary Pictures gave Guillermo del Toro carte blanche with this film, to make the giant monsters vs. giant robots movie that he’s always wanted to make, the movie that tackles the creatures, FX and themes that made him want to be a film director in the first place. The movie is a treasure trove of references to fabled kaiju series and movies from Japan and beyond, featuring moves, attacks, lines and designs that wink at the glorious past. Even if you don’t get those references, as an audience member you still feel like a kid at a candy store, twisting and turning at the screen trying to catch everything.

PACIFIC RIM is one of the few summer blockbusters this year that isn’t a sequel, prequel, remake or toy, even if it may inspire all of those things (or already has), and may make the un-initiated believe it’s simply a version of TRANSFORMERS vs. GODZILLA. By the end of this film, you’ll wish that del Toro were in charge of both of those franchises (of course, I’m pumped for Gareth Edwards’ vision for Gojira). Or better yet, that PACIFIC RIM becomes the hit that it deserves to be, and that del Toro is given free reign in Hollywood to explore whatever the hell he wants. Because we’ll be there.

Like the immense, visually exquisite kaiju within, PACIFIC RIM is 2,500 tons of awesome.

Sources

Comments

  1. Pacific Rim says:

    Within the opening 15 or so minutes Charlie Hunnam’s voice-over establishes the reality of a future where monsters (the Kaiju) repeatedly invade earth, to stem this humans have created giant robots (Jaegers) to combat them in increasingly badass iterations. This opening does a great job in conveying the scope of a film which is big, not just regular big, but like, Jason Biggs in 1999 bigg. entering the cinema from a world where these events rarely occur is initially a lot to throw at the audience, but it’s handled so effectively and without tongue in cheek that it quickly becomes a world I had a blast experiencing. Maybe it was the incredible effects shots of robot related destruction used as a throwaway shots, but what I think really sold the opening sequence and the film as a whole is the enthusiasm Del Toro clearly has for the story he’s telling.

    The cast is essentially a rogues gallery of TV’s better dramas playing variations on roles they’ve nailed in the past (see: Elba, Hunnam and Klattenhoff) and some inspired casting of It’s Always Sunny’s Charlie Day who, as should be expected provides some effective comedic relief. Added onto this the score comes courtesy of Ramin Djawadi who’s masterful use of themes on Game of Thrones is carried over to this film for some great emotional cues and many a rad motif courtesy of Tom Morello on guitar.

    It’s appropriate Del Toro has a Frankenstein adaptation lined up as a follow up project as Pacific Rim can at times can feel stitched together from all the sources of inspiration the film has. This comes from many areas such as Japanese manga, the personalities of the actors from previous films and the imagery of robots destroying buildings which transformers ran into the ground. But Del Toro succeeds time and time again at allowing these disparate elements to fit together believably by way of some very confident filmmaking. I could easily take issue with the oft hammy dialogue and macho relationships but where the film succeeds in other areas and revels in creativity trumps the dissatisfaction one could take from these scenes. I also found Hunnams character a tad lacking in charisma and internal conflict but whatever, it’s not the end of the world. Oh wait, yes it is hahahaha…

    The films successes go beyond its imagery and continued invention within battle scenes as the script is very economical when it comes to pacing. The films battle scenes are so engaging and exciting due to clearly established stakes present which left me devoid of the “action fatigue” transformers loves to throw my way. And although the Kaiju battles seem to never be in short supply, the film essentially follows the rule of three when it comes to battle sequences and left me oh so satisfied.

    In conclusion, I give it points for being one of the funner summer blockbusters in recent memory, for being an original property and for its sheer tenacity to exist which all amount to what is just a darn good time at the movies.

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