Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi
It’s taken a lot of time to fully grasp how I should grade this movie. Mainly because it’s been so long since I’ve seen one of these made correctly that I forgot it was humanly possible. There is always a fear going into one of these huge scale monstrous films that the spectacle will end up too large to maintain a down-to-earth story. Luckily, Del Toro isn’t just any director and Pacific Rim isn’t just any robot versus monster movie. Del Toro not only delivered on the hype, but has created one the best versions of the old school monster destruction movies ever to hit the big screen.
Now, let me make it clear to those who are expecting a fresh story that you won’t find one in Pacific Rim. In fact, the story is quite derivative for a Del Toro presentation. That being said, IT DOES NOT MATTER. When you walk out of your viewing of Pacific Rim, you won’t say, “Gee I wish they had a unique story there.” The story is simple for the best intentions. However, they make up for this by delivering well crafted characters. We’re not here for the complexity of movies like Inception. We’re here to see robots and monsters go to war!
So, now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about the story. As you all seen from the trailers, a portal underneath the Pacific Ocean has enabled massive monsters to leak into our planet and cause chaos. For the first time in ages, Countries have to toss aside differences and work together to survive. The answer they come up with? Build 25 story robots to exterminate the situation. I’m sure there is a more viable, less expensive solution, but damn does it make for one hell of a movie. Now, that a plan is in place, the robots and monsters are given labels– Kaiju meaning monster; Jaeger meaning hunter.
Fast forward several years later where we meet Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam), who is a Jaeger pilot. This is where we get our first real taste of the gigantic battles heading our way. Raleigh and his partner encounter a Kaiju off the waters of Alaska in the midst of a hurricane. The first battle sets up the real problem in the film. The Kaiju are becoming larger as well as stronger, making it nearly impossible for one Jaeger to win alone. Needless to say, the first battle does not end well. Leaving Raleigh Beckett unsure of his abilities to ever pilot a Jaeger ever again.
Years later, Kaiju are over-running everything and destroying the Jaeger program. Commander Stacker Pentacost (Idris Elba) seeks to find the best Jaeger pilots left in the world to finally put an end to the devastation. With little options, he seeks the help of Raleigh who hasn’t operated a Jaeger in several years. Raleigh is hesitant, but let’s just say nobody says “No” to Idris Elba. Seriously, this guy will get you pumped in this movie. Once he recruits Raleigh, they return to base and prepare for war. Then the fun really begins!
By far, the coolest aspect of Pacific Rim is the well crafted robot mechanics in the screenplay. Writer Travis Beacham does not half ass the details on this one. Every addition to the overall system of a Jaeger feels practical on a technological level. Add Del Toro’s vision and you have a grand sense of realism to the design. It’s amazing to see the difference between Michael Bay’s robots and Del Toro’s. The physics in the Jaeger-bots have greater value in the realism department just by how they move. Even the punches from these robots feel heavier. When they land you feel every ounce of the impact.
There have been tons of comparisons to Power Rangers and films like Robot Jox, however Pacific Rim makes every piloted robot attempt in a movie look shameful. The Jaeger-bots operate through a special shared technique between two pilots, known as The Drift. Each pilot connects individually into two sections of the bot mainframe, thus connecting both pilots into each other’s mind- sharing thoughts, feelings, and past memories. As Raleigh says in the film, “The deeper the bond, the better the fight.” It’s clever ideas such as this that elevate the material higher than most films in the same category.
Then we have the battles, which are absolutely insane. This is where the true geek in Del Toro just floods the big screen. The Kaiju and Jaeger face-offs unfold like the best childhood fantasy a kid could have with two of his favorite action figures. This is Del Toro’s sandbox full of toys and you are privileged to be invited inside. Not to mention the scale of these battles are just overwhelmingly massive. Michael Bay is going to rethink his entire career after seeing this movie.
Charlie Hunnam who is best known as Jax Teller from the television series Sons of Anarchy, does a great job carrying his first major blockbuster. I knew that one day this guy would find a place in cinema, and he brings the same intensity that he does on Sons. Hunnam’s costar, and Del Toro alumni, Ron Perlman, damn near steals the show with the little screen time he’s given. No one is going to leave the theater without mentioning Hannibal Chau. Plus, how can you forget a name like that anyway?
Other highlights include Charlie Day (Horrible Bosses, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) who pretty much appears to be channeling J.J. Abrams for his role. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman (The Dark Knight Rises) play two different types of nerdy scientist stereotypes that have to work together to understand the Kaiju. I’ll admit, these guys were somewhat cheesy characters but grew on me as the movie progressed.
Last but certainly not least is Pacific Rim’s leading lady Rinko Kikuchi (Babel, The Brothers Bloom) who plays Mako Mori– Survivor and Jaeger pilot from Japan. One thing I love about Del Toro is his willingness to create an unconventional strong female presence in his stories. Kikuchi tackles Mako with a perfect balance of strength and vulnerability. She has amazingly strong fighting skills but her eyes show inner weakness. Stellar casting decision on Del Toro’s part.
One thing I believe is going to surprise audiences this weekend is how family friendly of a movie this actually is. Sure, it has scary battles with a few tragic moments but this s a movie anyone can enjoy. The film is full of humor and crazy moments that help balance the spectacle. At first, it caught me by surprise because I was expecting a serious action film, but that is not the case at all. The tone of Pacific Rim is quite similar to sci-fi classics like Ghostbusters and Independence Day.
This is something parents will appreciate as well, because they don’t have to worry about provocative Michael Bay shots of half naked females or giant robots with testicles. Del Toro definitely shows he is better than that. Prepare to walk into Pacific Rim having a blast with one of the best goofball monster movies made in a long time. Oh, and don’t forget your popcorn!
One final note: See this in 3D! I don’t usually recommend such a thing but it’s incredible in that format. Thank me later.