Disclaimer: Spoilers ahead. I will try to keep them small, but the less you know the more you’ll enjoy this movie.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim knows what kind of movie it is. The genre is giant mecha, but the movie is still about people. He knows his audience. We’re looking for giant robots, science-fiction opera, and the heroic human component. You will find everything you’re looking for in Rim but regardless of whether you know what’s coming you will be entertained.
It’s been done before. It has just been a while since I’ve seen it done this good. We get the introduction to the giant monsters, the Kaiju and the giant robots, the Jaeger, before the title sequence shows up. But then the action is transferred to Hong Kong and I really, really enjoy the fact that Guillermo del Toro owns up to the fact that he’s essentially doing a live action adaptation of an anime love letter.
There’s lots of everything you love in this movie. Crazy holographic heads-up displays. Giant machines powering up. Old, beat up, battle armor. Huge doors with crazy locking mechanisms. There’s chinese slums built on top of Kaiju skeletons. There’s huge walls being build where people are willing to work with little safety for food rations.
The human component gives the film his heart. You will get your Kaiju vs. Jaeger battles soon enough, but we do get some decent human interaction here. Charlie Hunnan plays Raleigh Becket. He’s the reluctant hero, a former Jaeger pilot who quit after losing his brother. Idris Elba plays Stacker Pentecost, the commanding officer of the Jaeger program who brings Raleigh back for one last desperate attempt at winning the war. They’re both what you would expect. Pentecost will actually gain a lot more edge as the plot moves along.
Things get a whole lot more interesting when Rinko Kikuchi takes the screen as Mako Mori. Her character has a lot more depth than the rest of the Jaeger crew. She’s the rookie, shy and reserved. At the same time, she can be intense and can certainly hold her own in hand to hand combat. As it becomes obvious that she’s got potential to be a Jaeger pilot, she also becomes the most interesting character of the film. To pilot a Jaeger, you need two operators that must share memories in a synchronization process known as the drift. As Raleigh synchs with Mako, we are exposed to Mako’s memories – which will give Pentecost heart and Raleigh purpose. Rinko’s Mako also does something even nicer: it makes this movie better than the average film.
We will get our share of crazy scientist schemes, slight gags here and there and Ron Pearlman playing a Hong Kong gangster named Hannibal Chau. It’s a blockbuster, the movie never forgets what it’s going for. But there’s a rich world built around the central plot that makes the movie a delight to watch. You almost want to visit the fictional Bone Slums.
You will have to endure a hefty serving of cheese. There’s a few scenes and plot points that do seem to be taken right out of Independence Day (then again, that film learn those from other films). Pentecost will deliver a speech like every coach before the big game is played. Raleigh will stand up for Mako against a bully (we knew Mako could’ve taken him alone). A lot of secondary characters are one-dimensional caricatures. The final desperate plan does involve a nuclear bomb, but there will be a twist. EMPs affects all electrical devices, not just digital ones (and regardless of what your energy source is, almost all electronics are digital, Gypsy Danger).
It’s not flawless, but for the most part this is a very slick vehicle. I’d hate for someone to miss Pacific Rim thinking this is Michael Bay’s Transformers all over again. A thousand times no. Guillermo’s camera angles always give us a clear view of what’s ahead. There’s no jarring camera movement or unnecessary panning. You will believe you are on the ground staring up at a giant monster fighting a giant robot.
Heavily recommended. You can’t miss this film. Take the IMAX 3D plunge for this one. For once, it does employ the technology effectively to warrant the price.
That will do for now.