Skip to main content

Review: Pacific Rim

 The concept of monsters and giant robots bashing each other is certainly not new (Godzilla, several anime shows, etc.), but Pacific Rim has a secret weapon up its sleeve: Guillermo del Toro. Every picture Del Toro makes is infused with an enthusiasm for creatures and fantastical elements that could only come from the mind of the man who brought us Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy and Cronos.

In the year 2020, a collision of techtonic plates in the Pacific has created a breach in the Earth's crust releasing massive beasts called the "kaiju" that plague cities around the world. To combat the threat, humans build gigantic mechas (named jaegers) in hopes that they can ward off the monsters threatening humanity. Instead of remote operation, these mechas can only be operated by two pilots mentally linked in "drift space".

(As a quick aside, as cool as it looks for two people to pilot the jaegers, but why a robot needs a human to act out a punch in this age of remote control warfare is just a little puzzling.)

The Jaegers prove to only delay the destruction a little longer and in the midst of the chaos, world leaders decide to shelter themselves inside kaiju-proof compounds. It goes without saying that these kaiju-proof compounds work in name only and with the jaegers out of operation, there aren't many options left.

Marshal Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) crafts a plan to use nukes to close the breach from the inside. To do so, he needs to convince former jaeger pilot Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam), to end a self-enforced exile and partner up with Pentecost's assistant, Mako (Rinko Kikuchi). Even if Pentecost manages to bring Raleigh onboard, the odds look slim, the only weapon at their disposal is an obsolete jaeger.

It was proposed by critics that the thrill of Pacific Rim would be less palpable because of the Transformers series, but those critics were very wrong. The fight scenes are beautifully choreographed, with each kaiju battle unique in its aesthetic, placing the audience right into the heart of the action. Everything is shot cleanly, without any of the shaky-cam mess or the extreme close-ups that diminish the grand scale with which everything unfolds. So thanks should be given to del Toro's regular cinematography Guillermo Navarro as well as editors John Gilroy and Peter Amundson for capturing the essence of a movie featuring giant robots should be.

Pacific Rim doesn't just shine in its action, but it also beats Transformers in another aspect where that franchise failed: humanity. The human factor that was completely missing in Michael Bay's efforts, is available in abundance with their central cast proving to be very capable in creating characters worth caring about. del Toro's picture succeeds because Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi and Idirs Elba take characters frequented in many pictures and layer them with charm, warmth and unity. When an audience is watching robots beat up monsters it's easy to forget the human stakes involved, but with this talented cast, that is never a worry.

That's not to say the film works completely. Years worth of character backgrounds and initial battles are fit into a 20 minute prologue and while that part works fine, the rhythm is lost afterward. Leaving sags during the film where it feels like del Toro is just following a blueprint with story elements feeling too similar to moments other big-budget flicks. Luckily, the highlight of the action sequences and the cast outweigh any of those problems.

Traditionally, Guillermo del Toro films tend to be more rewarding when they are on a more intimate scale, but Pacific Rim is... not really intimate. Still, with all that spectacle onscreen, it's hard to take in this clash of mechanical and monstrous titans without enjoying yourself. Monster movies like this are seldom seen anymore, but del Toro's child-like glee offers a promise to the audience: you will have a blast.

Popular posts from this blog

Hulk vs. The Incredible Hulk vs. The Avengers

There are two movies about the Hulk and one that features the green monster as a major player. One was made in 2003 by an auteur, starring a little-known Aussie. Five years later The Incredible Hulk came out to the same tepid reaction as Ang Lee's Hulk did. This weekend, The Avengers made the Hulk as popular as he has been in a long time. So it comes down to this: Hulk vs. Hulk vs. Hulk. Who will smash whom?

Round One: Acting
Edward Norton outshines Eric Bana as the dual persona of the meek Bruce Banner and the rage-induced Hulk. Eric Bana was given little to do but run and fight and often the audience was just waiting for him to transform. With the Incredible Hulk, Norton's Banner is fully fleshed-out and we are given a reason to care about him. Being allowed to go a little dark with Banner's scenes questioning what is left of his life provided emotional resonance to the character that Hulk lacked. Yet even with the capable performance that Norton gives there was something …

Review: The Salvation

Westerns have never recovered from the oversaturation that killed off viewer interest decades ago, but every now and then a gem pops up. Recent successes like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma and the Coen brothers adaptation of True Grit all did well because they tweaked the genre slightly, but director Kristian Levring goes with an old school approach. A faithful recreation of those revenge Westerns made so popular in the 1970s, The Salvation envelopes many elements of previous Clint Eastwood classics and wraps it into a tidy package.

The Salvation starts in on the central dilemma, joining Jon (Hannibal‘s Mad Mikkelsen) at the train station where he awaits the arrival of his wife and son. Jon and his brother, Peter (Mikael Persbrandt), have lived in the United States long enough to build a hospitable life for their family back in Denmark. This homecoming should be a sweet moment to establish the family important to Jon, but fate plays out…

Review: The Voices

Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) spends his days working the nine-to-five shift at his new job at the Milton Bathtub Factory. Jerry is chipper to the point that he may turn some people off, but he never stops trying to make friends. Friends are something that Jerry could use because the only other conversation he has is with his dog Bosco and his cat Mr. Whiskers. Things are looking up though, Jerry has been tasked with planning the company picnic and he’s asked a girl (Gemma Arterton) out on a date. Jerry is so excited to share the news he rushes home to tell his pets about Fiona. Oddly enough, both Bosco and Mr. Whiskers start talking back.

No need to go back and re-read that last sentence, yes, Ryan Reynolds has pets who talk back to him. His dog, Bosco, is quite affable, however, his cat, Mr. Whiskers, would feel right at home curled in the lap of Blofeld. Unfortunately for everyone around him, it’s the advice of the evil cat that Jerry heeds more often than not. For all of Jerry’s pleasant…