Guillermo Del Toro finally resumes directing duties after a long hiatus spent not directing The Hobbit. Does Pacific Rim keep afloat or sink like a 2500 ton broken down mech? Some slight spoilers to come.
The basic idea, as told by opening narration, is that massive Kaiju – Japanese for beast, they’re basically giant monsters – started appearing through a portal deep beneath the Pacific Ocean and attacking our cities. The initial attacks took a massive toll on the human race so everyone set their petty differences aside and started to work together for the greater good, the best plan seemingly to build giant mechs to take the Kaiju down. The mechs were called Jaegers (German for Hunter) and are piloted by two people who connect with the machine using a neural interface that also links the two pilots together. Apparently a single pilot can’t handle the strain.
The film follows Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) as a seemingly routine Kaiju attack goes horribly wrong, costing him his brother and heavily damaging his Jaeger Gipsy Danger; they all have cool names like that. The plot picks up five years after that point where they’re all nearly doomed and have to make one final push for the good of humanity.
Sound familiar? It should, it’s basically the plot to Independence Day but with giant monsters instead of aliens. Is that a bad thing? I wouldn’t say so. Plots don’t need to be heavily convoluted to be good and the plot of Pacific Rim works for what the film sets out to achieve.
To say that Pacific Rim wasn’t silly would be lying but I don’t think it’s really supposed to be taken seriously. It is clear that Del Toro made this film as a love letter to all of the Japanese monster movies and anime that he loves and as far as I can tell (my knowledge of those kinds of films is somewhat limited) the film does a good job of honouring those.
The casting is good and Hunnam makes a solid leading man; nothing spectacular but a film like this isn’t really about the characters as such. Rinko Kikuchi does very well as the shy yet capable co-pilot and almost but not quite love interest. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman as the annoying scientists Newton and Gottlieb respectively are just that, kind of annoying but they serve their function in the plot well. Max Martini and Robert Kazinski as Australian father-son duo Herc and Chuck Hansen also do their jobs as required. As seems to be a staple of Del Toro movies these days, Ron Perlman plays the enigmatic and always sarcastic Hannibal Chau. He brings some memorably amusing moments and is generally a fun character to watch.
The most interesting character by far is Idris Elba’s Marshal Stacker Pentecost. Elba does a fantastic job of playing a man who is made bitter by years of war and the continual loss of his people. It is also clear how much he cares for Rink Kikuchi’s Mako Mori whom he raised after finding her in the aftermath of a Kaiju attack years earlier.
The visual effects are absolutely stunning, though I would have liked to see more action sequences in daylight. I understand that the rain and darkness was a stylistic choice but nevertheless a daylight action sequence would have been great. The action as shown was amazing though in particular, the two Kaiju attack on Hong Kong where only one Jaeger survived to take them both down was spectacular. There’s just something about a giant mech using a ship to beat a giant monster in the head that brings a smile to my face.
My main criticism is that the middle section when everyone is preparing for the final mission is a little long and I felt like I was impatiently waiting for the action to start again. The dialogue is at times very cheesy with zingers such as “We are cancelling the Apocalypse!” and “I spent so much time thinking about the past, I forgot about the future. Until now.” but those are really minor criticisms.
I suspect that Pacific Rim is one of those films that people will either love or hate, most definitely I am on the love side of it but mileage may vary depending on expectations.