Despite all of the giant creatures, mammoth sized robots, and city crushing showdowns seen in its trailers, I wouldn’t allow myself to get too excited about “Pacific Rim”. I mean even with the much beloved director Guillermo del Toro in charge I still found ample reasons to be skeptical. I mean we are talking about giant monsters versus giant robots right? Yet I knew I would be seeing it. My 11 year old son was all onboard and my deep affection for those great sci-fi creature features of the 1950’s kept the film in the back of my mind.
Lets be honest, “Pacific Rim” is based on a pretty absurd concept. It’s also loaded with all of the ingredients for a ridiculous and corny picture. But the big surprise is that Guillermo del Toro is completely aware of it from the start. He embraces it, mocks it, and plays with it. That’s a huge reason that “Pacific Rim” is such a fun ride.
Storywise there’s really nothing here that you haven’t seen before. The script pulls parts from everything from “Independence Day” to “Top Gun” and it employs a number of the summer popcorn movie cliches that we see every year. Many of the characters are carbon copied from other films and their stories play out exactly as you would expect. It’s big and loud and there isn’t an ounce of subtlety anywhere in the movie.
But now that I have that stuff out of the way let me tell you why “Pacific Rim” is such a good film. I mentioned how del Torro plays with this familiar material. He makes this his own sandbox and builds a wildly entertaining experience regardless of it familiarity. His love for those wonderful big monster pictures is evident in this story of skyscraper sized creatures from beneath the Pacific Ocean. After major cities from around the globe fall to the devastating beasts known as Kaiju (a Japanese word meaning “strange creature”), the world comes together to create a line of defense. That defense is in the form of Jaegers, huge robots manned by two pilots connected via something akin to a Vulcan mind meld.
Idris Elba, an actor I really like, plays Stacker Pentecost (don’t you love that name?). He’s the commanding officer of the operation. Charlie Hunnan plays the risk-taking Raleigh who’s called back into service after a past tragedy. Rinko Kikuchi plays a very capable potential pilot whose shrouded in mystery. We even get Ron Perlman, a del Toro favorite, as a slimy black market seller of creature parts. Yes, it’s as strange as it sounds but Perlman has a blast with it. There are also several other good characters sprinkled throughout the story who are surprisingly well fleshed out and a lot of fun.
Contrary to what you may think, this isn’t just a constant barrage of beast versus machine combat. Del Toro spends a lot of time unwrapping these characters which was surprisingly effective. In fact the entire middle portion of the movie gets away from the action and spends its time setting up relationships and building its characters. Most of the time this worked but honestly the movie did spin its wheels a little here. I felt it took a tad to much time away from the Jaegers and I was pretty happy when they were back in the picture. But I don’t want to downplay what he does with the characters. They are so much more well-rounded that I would imagine.
Still, the real meat and potatoes of “Pacific Rim” are the robots, monsters, and the enormous action set pieces surrounding them. And let me just say they look spectacular. The geek boy in me was giddy with pleasure whenever del Toro’s creations took center stage. The near flawless CGI is really something to behold. Clearly there is a ton of it, sometimes with full sequences of nothing put computer generated effects. But it looks so amazing and del Toro’s imagination shown in his creations is loads of fun. And even as preposterous as the whole thing was, I had absolutely no problem buying into all.
So what can I say? “Pacific Rim” really surprised me. Just like many others, I feared this could be just another of those mind-numbing “Transformers” films. Boy was I wrong. It’s good science fiction and it’s good storytelling. More importantly to me it’s a wonderful hearken back to an old genre of movies that I’m still crazy about. The 1950’s sci-fi creature features are movies that many modern moviegoers aren’t familiar with. Personally I love them and “Pacific Rim” shows me del Toro does too. Hats off to him.
Awesome review! Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did. It is near impossible not have a good time checking this one out. It’s like the ultimate summer blockbuster!
Lots of fun! More so than I expected. Del Toro intentionally plays in cliche sometimes embracing it and sometimes mocking it. Throws in a little commentary along with it. But mainly its the robots and creatures that won me over.
Not much more to say when it is Giant Robots vs. Giant Monsters. Fun stuff for a couple of hours, but instantly disposable. It’s King Kong vs. Godzillia with better special effects.
I had a lot of fun with it. Anxious to see it again. It really took me back to the creature features of the 50’s. I was also impressed that it didn’t just bombard you with nonstop action.
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Good review Keith. You could argue about the script until the cows come home, but there’s no doubting that it’s fun and rousing for what it is, and not what it totally could have been.
Thanks. Lots of fun indeed.
Still not sure I can bring myself to watch this…
If you don’t care for robots vs. monsters, old school 50’s styled sci-fi, etc. it may not appeal to ya.
Nice review Keith, glad you liked it. Haven’t seen too many bad reviews of this, if any. Hoping to see it maybe this weekend.
It’s worth it for sure. Hope you enjoy it.
Great review Keith. I felt the same way. We could all say, “I would have done this different or I would have done that different,” but we’re not directors. All the Top-Gun stuff has become standard in many of the later Godzilla movies and some even have that one female pilot on a personal vendetta because her parents/ brother/ grandparents were killed by Big-G. I thought the scene of Mako as a child, running through the empty streets calling for her mom and dad, while the Kaiju was hunting her down was an awesome scene, maybe the highlight of the non-battle parts of the film. I also thought Elba played a terrific part as Stacker!
You just mentioned my favorite scene. I loved that whole flashback. Really glad to see the movie getting such positive response.
Yay, glad to see you dug this too Keith! I love the ridiculous names of the characters (to match the ridiculousness of those monsters, ahah)
“They are so much more well-rounded that I would imagine.” Yep, that is quite surprising in movies like this, esp since the trailers made it seem like it’s so darn vapid! LOVE Elba here, very crush-worthy and adds so much gravitas every moment he appears.
I’m growing to be a bigger and bigger fan of Elba. I really liked him in Prometheus (minus the poor southern accent). He adds so much to a film.
Idris Elba is really rising fast as a British heavy weight. Next, he’s up to play Nelson Mandela? That’s impressive. Great review, as usual, Keith!
Thanks Cindy! I love seeing Elba getting some love! He deserves it.
Nice review. I always enjoy Del Toro’s work, so I hope to catch this soon.
It’s a little different than his other films, lol. But it’s a lot of fun.
Add this review to the increasing tally of bloggers who think this film is the best blockbuster of the year (so far)….. Nice work Keith. I’m really gonna have to get off my backside and go see it!!
Now I don’t think it’s the best of the year so far. I do think it bogs down just a little in its attempt to a broaden its characters. I know some who like it better than me. But I really appreciate what the film is doing and in the end it was quite fun.
Sorry – I should clarfiy: better than Iron Man 3 and Man Of Steel…..
Good review Kieth. You know I loved it 😀
Yep! And I had a lot of fun as well. I’m really anxious to see it again.
Going again soon 😀
It was fun but I was expecting it to be awesome. Where was the del Toro twisted wonderfulness? Loved the monsters and robots but other than Charlie Day the characters were sort of lame caricatures.
They were all caricatures for sure but I felt intentionally so. It worked for me even in its slightness.
Keith I was sort of thinking that as well, perhaps they were supposed to be sort of cliches like in the old Kaiju films. However, I still wanted more creepy del Toroness in the film.
Oh Keith, it’s wildly amusing how you mention two things very similar to my own review here:
First, we both feel that any shortfall of polished storytelling is an intentional nod to the genre of fluff films like this… and secondly, the TOP GUN reference! I would’ve loved Raleigh serenading Mako from the top of a Jaeger.
I completely agree with you though. It’s a fun movie. It’s not genius or completely foolproof in terms of story or originality, but it’s enjoyable and the action sequences are breathtaking. Great Review Keith!
Thank you, thank you! I appreciate it. I’m really anxious to revisit the film. I haven’t seen it since that review and its a film I think is a lot of fun.
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