Pacific Rim Review
Though this post is devoid of any real spoilers, some details of the film are discussed in greater depth than what has been shown in previews. For moviegoers who wish to retain as much mystery as possible going into the picture, it is advised that they see the film first and come back afterwards to compare their experience with the reviewer’s. If they don’t mind a a few more details being expounded upon, this review is suitable for reading before watching the movie.
There are a lot of things that Pacific Rim – the new $180 million offering from horror and sci-fi/fantasy maven Guillermo Del Toro – gets right. The monsters are terrific and frightful. The mechs are impressive and move with the slow grace expected of such enormous machines. The colors used on screen are beautiful and complex, an excellent aesthetic choice the director made that gives the film an advanced vibrancy. Instead of the typical grey-green hues that have become so expected in modern science fiction pictures, we are instead treated to, as Del Toro put it, a “supersaturated, operatic color palette.” The actors don’t embarrass themselves. The action sequences, although promised by Del Toro to be sparse in their use of quick-cuts, are still sometimes a little jarring in their delivery but still fun to watch, nonetheless.
If you just wait out the scenes in between in the action, it’s a decent outing to the theater. The characters develop well enough. Each one feels almost like a real person (albeit one who lives in a future where Voltron exists and Gamera wants to eat you). Just don’t try to look too closely into the plot. It’s kind of dumb, but what else would you expect from a movie about giant Ultraman-type mechs, called “Jaegers,” battling gargantuan, otherworldly Godzilla-type beasts, called “Kaiju?”
The story, which the audience is brought up to speed on via voiceover in the first five minutes of the film, goes like this: tectonic plates at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean shifted, somehow opening up a portal to another dimension. Monsters came out of the portal, first smaller, then slightly bigger, then slightly bigger, and so forth – but only one at a time. At first, humanity used its individual militaries to deal with the problem, but they soon realized they needed to pool their resources and build giant badass mech-warriors to deal with the problem. Their first run at getting pilots linked with the Jaegers was unsuccessful until they realized they needed to split the neurological workload between two people, preferably who share an already existing bond (like siblings or parents and their children), who link together and each control half of the mech (though they wind up moving in unison due to the aforementioned neurological link). The Kaiju, since they keep getting bigger as time passes (or at least it’s supposed to be that way – honestly, they all looked about the same size), are categorized in the same way we do hurricanes, as in “category 1” (good God…), “category 2” (no no no no no…), “category 3” (I just shit myself…), and so on. The implications of this number system are what you are guessing, however when the expected climactic showdown occurs, it fizzles so badly that you may not even know you saw anything.
The characters are cut out of every summer blockbuster that ever existed and the film follows that very same drawn out formula, by the letter. This is essentially Top Gun, with mechs instead of F-14s. Instead of Tom Cruise we have Charlie Hunnam (most known for his work in Sons of Anarchy) as Raleigh Becket, who grimaces with the best of them and walks like he has one leg shorter than the other. Instead of James Tolkan, we get Idris Elba (from The Wire, and who should be among top consideration if Marvel ever decides to get around to making that Black Panther movie) as Commander Stacker Pentecost, who is quite good despite all the silliness going on around him. Charlie Day stands out as – who would have guessed it – the comedy relief, in the role of crackpot scientist Dr. Newton Geiszler, who has a nigh-unhealthy fascination with the Kaiju. Rinko Kikuchi (who, if you do remember her, you remember as Boom Boom from Rian Johnson’s better-than-average Brothers Bloom), is exceptional in the film as the inexperienced but adorably promising Mako Mori. Del Toro regular Ron Perlman is fantastically smarmy as the black market Kaiju parts dealer, Hannibal Chau.
The effects, like in every Del Toro film, are absolutely jaw-dropping. Most of the action takes place at sea, and Del Toro makes sure that the sequences spend a great deal of time below the surface to contrast the above-water mayhem, often both during the same shot. Every battle – and there is most certainly a satisfying number of them in the film, rest assured – is of enormous scale and results in immense destruction. How the Jaegers are repaired so quickly between battles, since the time in between them doesn’t seem to be very long (if one uses, as time stamps, how much some characters’ visible cuts, bruises and scrapes heal), is beyond me. There seems to be a lot of people working on the machines, but it was also mentioned early in the film that they’re being destroyed faster than they can be built. Kind of conflicting, wouldn’t you say?
And then there’s the third act, which is done in such a hasty fashion and with so many left turns it leaves the viewer a bit disappointed. This is summer fare, and we blockbuster moviegoers want our mega-flicks wrapped up with neat little bows on top, but I can’t help but feel as if there was a lot left on the cutting room floor from the end that could have been left in while some of the unnecessarily lengthy scenes in its midsection could have been excised instead. Some truly inexplicable things occur in the last twenty or so minutes, and seem to happen only to satisfy the audience’s need for them to happen. Honestly, it feels like Del Toro stopped having fun with it and said, “Screw it, let’s just proceed with the formalities and end this thing.”
And please don’t get me started on the dinosaurs bit. Ugh.
To 3D or not to 3D — Though there are parts in the movie which certainly benefited from the added effects 3D brings, and were most likely shot the way they were with 3D in mind, nothing about the effects is so spectacular that it warrants the extra $5 at the box office.
(All photos courtesy of Warner Bros. and Legendary Films.)
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