Pacific Rim, Review

Guillermo del Toro's giant robot/giant monster throwdown is much more than just a visual spectacle, it's a unique experience that could be the best film of its kind.

The thing about Pacific Rim is that it’s a very specific concept. It’s so specific that viewers will probably have already made up their minds about it long before a ticket is purchased. What it really boils down to is that you either relish the idea of two hours featuring twenty-story humanoid robots duking it out with monsters from beneath the ocean floor that are so terrifying that they’d give Godzilla a case of the trots…or you don’t. But as blockbuster season continues to become a parade of licensed characters, warmed-over franchises, and superstar vehicles, Pacific Rim (despite a number of familiar visual and story elements) is an incredibly exciting breath of fresh air.The plot is roughly as simple as the trailers make it seem. Humanity is on the verge of a gruesome apocalypse because of the increasing frequency of giant monster attacks. The creatures (kaiju) rise from a rift at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, and humanity’s only hope is with a defense force of men and women who pilot Jaegers, which are gigantic robots operated by a neural/cybernetic interface. When it’s time for the Jaegers to make their final stand against the kaiju, they’re left with a young man who nearly lost everything, a young woman who did, and a small group willing to sacrifice what little they have left. While this may sound completely ridiculous here, I assure you that when seen on the screen (particularly in IMAX), Pacific Rim absolutely will make you a believer. Much of this has to do with the film’s director, Guillermo del Toro, who puts many of his favorite elements on display, from the intricate workings of each and every Jaeger to the biological horror of the otherworldly monsters (not to mention the brief glimpses of the eerie undersea world they come from). Del Toro has made a name for himself creating utterly convincing on-screen worlds that operate by their own rules, and Pacific Rim is no different. Throughout the movie there are glimpses of where human culture and technology are in this near (and battered) future, and everything from architecture to subcultures are introduced and hinted at, without ever tripping over more important story elements. But really…this is a movie about mechs fighting giant monsters, and in that regard, Pacific Rim may very well be the finest film of its kind. Pacific Rim owes a significant debt to anime, and fans of vintage genre specimens like Robotech and Voltron will find themselves positively giggling with delight as certain vaguely familiar concepts and situations are realized in stunning, almost unthinkable ways in live-action. It’s rare that a movie comes along that makes you believe so completely in the world and technology that abounds in it, but that’s exactly what Pacific Rim does. Of course, it’s hard not to think of classic kaiju films that feature more familiar monsters like Godzilla and Mothra while watching Pacific Rim. But what’s truly impressive is that while the film clearly doesn’t hide its influences it never strays into nudge/wink territory, and certainly doesn’t make light of the threat that the kaiju pose. These aren’t lumbering, rubber-suited Power Rangers menaces, but dynamic, powerful, impossibly terrifying beasts with their own specific, horrifically disgusting biology. And there are plenty of them. Actions have consequences, these giants have weight, and the sense of wartime menace and panic is never far away when the battles begin. Despite the fact that these actors are playing second-fiddle to their enormous counterparts, there are some solid performances on display. Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket isn’t the most loveable leading man around, but given the world he lives in, there probably isn’t much room for warmth and charm. Idris Elba is unsurprisingly terrific as the stoic and noble Stacker Pentecost, who clearly believes (and does a fine job convincing the audience) that he is humanity’s last rock of stability. Rinko Kikuchi’s Mako Mori deserves even more screen time, and there’s a nagging suspicion that this could have been her movie with a little tweaking. And, of course, Ron Perlman owns every minute of his screen time as the black market kaiju organ harvester (yes, you read that right) Hannibal Chau.The rare moments where Pacific Rim goes wrong are simply when it tries to do a little too much. The opening scenes that establish the history of the war against the kaiju and the development of the Jaeger technology ultimately seem like wasted time once the film gets going. If you’ve bought your ticket, you’ve already accepted the concept, right? It’s also a far more intense (and occasionally downbeat) film than its seemingly goofy subject matter makes it appear. However, it’s worth noting that the vast majority of the violence is of the robot-on-monster variety…and in more remote areas than films like Avengers and Man of Steel, thereby removing some of the ambiguous questions about loss of life and collateral damage. Pacific Rim is quite unique among recent blockbuster films. While there are certainly some cool toys to be made out of these designs, the fragile, sometimes tragic characters are far from superheroic. What’s more, there’s little indication that leaving room for sequels is at the top of this film’s list of priorities, despite what is (once the major dangers are dealt with) a hopeful theme about the resilience and nobility of humanity when united in the face of destruction. The fact that giant mechs have never looked more majestic (this movie firmly puts the entire Transformers movie franchise in its place)  nor kaiju more terrifyingly real only sets it further apart from any of the competition. There’s talk that Pacific Rim may have some difficulty finding its audience because of its rather hyper-specific appeal. That would be a real shame. There’s nothing out there that looks quite like Pacific Rim, but just like in the movie itself, there’s more lurking beneath the surface.Den of Geek Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing!


3.5 out of 5