Movie Review: Pacific Rim

I saw this bombastic movie over a week ago and I wasn’t really intending to review it; to be honest I think it’s a pretty simple equation. But I’ve seen and heard some negative things about the film since then that have been blown way out of proportion, so here we go anyway.

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Starring:
Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi
Director:
Guillermo Del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth)
Rating: M
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As the last real big action blockbuster of the American summer, Pacific Rim promised a certain brand of fresh sincerity amidst a rather bleak landscape of introspective superheroes getting down on the fact that they’re superheroes. It promised a film featuring giant robots fighting giant aliens, helmed by one of the most passionate directors of our time. As it turns out, Guillermo Del Toro‘s personal homage to essentially every humongous mecha anime ever (like many Mexicans his age, Del Toro grew up watching a huge amount of Japanese-produced television because of how relatively cheap it was to broadcast compared to Hollywood content) pretty much delivers on that promise. If you want to keep reading this review, by all means please do – as always I appreciate your interest and support. But if the idea of giant robots fighting giant aliens grabs you, rest assured this movie does that idea fantastically and you NEED to go see this movie. Go.

There’s a story in Pacific Rim and it is firmly planted in the absurd corner. Some time before the events of the movie, Earth becomes the victim of a series of attacks by giant alien monsters called ‘kaiju’, which come forth from a dimensional rift in the pacific ocean. To combat these creatures, the nations of the world realise they have to put aside their differences and begin to work together to built giant robots called ‘jaegers’. Piloting these jaegers proves too much for one person’s brain, however, so a kind of brain link technology is developed that allows two compatible people to enter into one another’s minds and histories in order to be able to take on the daunting task of controlling the movements of a gargantuan fighting machine. If that sounds like the idea behind an anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion to you then yeah, you’re right, and that’s the point (see above).

Our protagonist is Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam from Sons of Anarchy), a gifted former pilot of the magnificent and imposing jaeger Gipsy Danger, who loses his co-pilot and brother in a traumatic kaiju battle and drifts into anonymity for five years until he is, of course, called out of the wilderness by none other than the badass Idris Elba, playing a character with the single best name to be found in any film this year: Stacker Pentecost. The kaiju have begun to attack much more regularly and with tougher hides, and they are now winning the overarching ‘war’ after reducing the once impressive jaeger numbers to a paltry four. Raleigh will have to trust an unfamiliar Japanese prodigy, Rinko Kikuchi‘s Mako Mori, enough to pilot the legendary Gipsy Danger once more into the fiercest battle the world has ever seen etc etc.

Despite drawing inevitable comparisons to Michael Bay’s Transformers movies because of the BWWWAAAWWMMM sounds in the trailer and, well, the giant robots, to expect a similar kind of film would be doing a huge disservice to what Del Toro is trying to achieve with Pacific Rim. The robot designs are nowhere near as busy as those in Transformers and the considerable action is easier to follow thanks to a deliberately slower pacing. Every punch, every strike feels weighty and, for lack of a better word, epic. Fights take place amidst fierce storms and lashing waves, set against backdrops of skyscrapers, world-famous landmarks, clouds and the depths of the ocean. Each kaiju is a considerable presence, an immensely imposing mass of alien flesh and strangely beautiful fluorescent highlights, a grotesque appropriation of an earth marine animal. Each fight unfolds in multiple stages, keeping things feeling fresh and occasionally springing a true surprise. There’s plenty of action, too – make no mistake about it.

The rest of the film may not be Oscar-worthy material to say the least, but it does at least three noticeably unique things quite well. First and foremost, it manages to rather successfully transplant the atmosphere of a typically over-the-top anime into live action. Everything is drenched in delectable colour, the script is packed with bountiful amounts of ham, the characters are cartoon exaggerations, particularly Burn Gorman‘s mad scientist and Ron Perlman‘s black market kaiju bits dealer, and some of the film’s ‘logic’ could only fly in a Japanese animation. Secondly, the plot, setting and even casting is refreshingly international – most of the action takes place in Hong Kong of all places and you won’t find any American favouritism from alien life forms here. Thirdly, Del Toro‘s attitude to the relationships between characters avoids a number of action movie cliches, most impressively in the dynamic between the two Gipsy Danger pilots.

The movie isn’t perfect – that international casting flourish raises the question of why the two prominent Australian characters in the film couldn’t have been played by actual Aussies, as their supposed accents are atrocious, even insulting, and it doesn’t help things when Elba can’t decide what accent he wants to stick with. The film has some lines and plot holes that go beyond what can be expected of an audience’s suspension of disbelief, even inside that anime flavoured shell. The most notable of these involves a cutting implement, but I’ll leave it at that. All in all, these flaws hardly damage the film and, like I said at the top of this review, if the idea behind Pacific Rim gets your attention, it will be worth your while.

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THE VERDICT

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Good:
Spectacular large-scale action, delightfully hammy script, eye-watering aesthetic, nails the feel of an anime
Bad:
Accents suck, a few plot holes
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515/110A M A Z I N G

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Shannon on August 3, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    Somebody explained the cutting implement plot hole to me.

    SPOILER:
    They don’t want to spray the acidic kaiju blood all over the place, so they only use blunt weapons and weapons that cauterise the wounds (plasma cannon). Hence no prior use of the implement.

    Reply

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