I consider myself a pretty big fan of Guillermo Del Toro. I liked his unique vampire debut called CRONOS. I missed MIMIC and THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE, but thought his BLADE II was a hell of a good time. Then he amped up the Blockbuster juice when he made HELLBOY and HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY. Both have fantastic performances from Ron Perlman, a great fantasy sensibility, and well crafted action sequences. But most people consider PAN’S LABYRINTH to be his masterpiece, and it’s hard to argue with that. It’s been 5 years since his last film (though he was slated to direct THE HOBBIT until Jackson took over). Well, now Del Toro is finally back… and with a vengeance as he has made the biggest film of his career, PACIFIC RIM.
Man, the universe that Del Toro has created here is so expansive that it’s really hard to explain everything. There’s just so much! Hmmm. How the hell do I do this? …….okay….. So the movie is set in the future. A bunch of gigantic monsters from another dimension called Kaijus, have risen from a portal deep in the ocean. These beasts attack the coastal cities and threaten the very existence of man. To fight the Kaiju, the humans have created a bunch of gigantic robots called Jaegers. These robots are controlled by at least 2 humans at a time. The cockpit is in the head and the pilots are on some sort of treadmill-like machine that make the robots move exactly how they are moving. Also, the pilots are connected by the mind, so they can move as one. This is called “Drifting”, which allows each pilot to enter the other’s mind. It may sound like a bit to take in (and it is) but it’s all pretty well explained in detail during the extended 17 minute prologue. (And thank you Mr. Del Toro for actually having the title appear in the beginning of the film!).
Okay, that is the premise. Now for the plot and characters. The prologue introduces us to 2 brothers who pilot a Jaeger, Raleigh and Yancy as they battle a giant Kaiju. During the fight, the monster breaks open the robot and kills Yancy. Raleigh, by himself, pilots the j\Jaeger and destroys the creature. 5 years later, Raleigh is no longer a Jaeger pilot, but working some hard labor job in Alaska. He’s tracked down by Jaeger commander Stacker, and convinces him to come back. You see, the Kaiju have been destroying more Jaeger’s by the minute and there’s only 4 left. They need the best! Once at the training facility, he meets a Japanese woman named Mako who desperately wants to pilot a Jaeger (a Kaiju killed her family) but for some reason Stacker won’t let her. Of course, Raleigh and the girl end up becoming compatible and they become a terrific team. The plan is to deliver a nuclear bomb to the portal in the ocean, therefore closing the bridge connecting the other dimension to Earth. There’s also a subplot involving a wacky scientist named Newton who is trying to “drift” with a Kaiju brain. He goes to a seedy underworld character named Chau (Ron Perlman), who sells Kaiju organs on the black market for help. There’s some other key characters involved too, but I’ll just let you discover them for yourself. I’ve talked about the plot long enough.
Now I can tell you what I thought of the flick! But first, I’m getting real tired of people comparing this and/or simply writing this off as a TRANSFORMERS rip-off. I’m also getting plenty pissed when people are comparing this to Power Rangers as well. This is so much more than that! What Guillermo Del Toro has created is a very expansive and nerdy sci-fi universe. The attention to detail is nothing short of extraordinary. Sure, we’ve seen giant robots and monsters like this before, but nothing as rich as what we see here.
From frame one, this movie kicks all sorts of ass. This isn’t one of those safe mainstream movies that tries to please the average Joe by throwing in pop culture references and inappropriately placed humor. This is a no-nonsense sci-fi epic that has an old-fashioned sense of heroism and a nerdy sensibility. In other words, this summer blockbuster is the REAL DEAL! This is the type of movie that I would have thought up when I was 12 years old. An epic battle with giant robots battle giant monsters in order to save the human race. And the action sequences are done in such a way that would have satisfied my pre-pubescent appetite. This is exactly the type of movie that I have been waiting for this summer! It satisfied me on every level.
I loved how the movie starts off. There is a voice over explaining what a Kaiju and a Jaeger is. It explains the state of the world. Then we’re treated with an exhilarating battle as Raleigh and his brother take on a knife-faced monster. And I even got more pumped up that when the 17 minute opening sequence was over, they actually displayed the title of the film!!! Thank Christ! I was getting really fucking tired of this current trend to not show the title of the movie until the end credits. That’s fucking stupid! If you ever want to get this particular film geek excited, than give me a kick ass opening sequence followed by the title. I will usually applaud every time. And PACIFIC RIM delivered in that department.
The visual effects are nothing short of groundbreaking. Every little detail that has gone into the Jaegers and Kaijus have been painstakingly thought out. Even the future world that the film takes place in is well conceived. I loved all the different weapons that each Jaeger had, like blades, missiles and fists that shoot out. Every Jaeger has a different style. I particularly liked the Russian Jaeger which has a head the shape of the bucket. The Kaiju also have some cool designs, with each one looking a little different from the last. And the action! Man, it looks astounding! I love how the people control the robots, and the design of the interior of the Jaegers. And the battles! Awesome! Seeing the robots use objects, such as boats as weapons had me cheering out loud. Speaking of cheering, I went nuts when one of the Jaegers is battleing a Kaiju in mid-air, and then pulls out a sword (ala Voltron). I kind of lost my shit there!
But is this movie more than just robots vs. monsters? The answer is YES! You can’t have a great action movie without some characters to root for, and I would say the filmmakers have succeeded in this department as well. Now, the characters are hardly groundbreaking. In fact, they’re downright cliché ridden, but that’s okay. This movie wants to be a fun, old-fashioned popcorn flick, so it delivers a bunch of affectionately cornball characters. The main dude, Raleigh is probably the most generic. He doesn’t have any distinct facial features, and seems to have the personality of a walnut, but I’ll be damned if he wasn’t likable. He’s played by Charlie Hunnam. Now, he doesn’t really leave a lasting impression (it could have been played by any blank slate. I’m looking at you Sam Worthington), but he’s a solid enough actor to get the job done. Fortunately, Del Toro has surrounded him with a plethora of fun characters played by talented actors. I have always been a fan of Idris Elba ever since I saw him in the mediocre Tyler Perry movie DADDY’S LITTLE GIRLS. He was great in that movie, but I didn’t care for the actual movie itself. So I’m happy to report that he plays a kick ass character in a kick ass movie as the captain of the Jaeger squad. He’s got a great character moment toward the end that had me hollering out loud. BABEL’S Rinko Kikuchi is adorable as Mako. Loved her training fight with Raleigh. Charlie Day is definitely channeling goofy 80’s characters as the scientist trying to drift with a Kaiju. I also really liked Burn Gorman as his colleague, who has such a uniquely odd face. It’s like Willem Dafoe and Michael Rooker had a child together. Hope to see him in more films! And of course, Del Toro regular Ron Perlman steals every scene he’s in as Chau. This guy is just an amazing human being who can do no wrong. He seriously needs to be in more films. Hollywood would greatly benefit from that. He’s got some of the film’s best moments, and also, don’t forget to stay through the credits (which you should be doing anyways since all these people have worked so hard to make a movie for YOU. The least you can do is sit through the credits. It’s respectful).
Del Toro hasn’t made a film in 5 years, and it shows. In a very good way! You can tell he was hungry. He REALLY wanted to make a movie. Every shot is precisely planned out and every detail is carefully conceived. It was just exhilarating watching Del Toro create something this much fun and well crafted in front of my eyes. The script is good too. Now, this isn’t groundbreaking stuff, nor is it trying to be. What Del Toro has done was make the ultimate film for adolescent males. If you don’t enjoy this film, than perhaps you have lost a little of that kid inside you. Because this is first class filmmaking. And the score by Ramin Djawadi (the first IRON MAN) is appropriately epic.
Now, I respect people’s opinions. Fellow Film Geek Central writer Jesse Hoheisel did not like this movie (click here for his review). That’s fine. But, I would like to say one thing to him. He mentioned that the film was too loud and noisy, like he was surprised about it. Um….. FUCKING DUH, DUDE! It’s a movie that has giant fucking robots fighting giant fucking monsters. OF COURSE THIS IS GOING TO BE THE LOUDEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR!!!! WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU EXPECT?!?!?!?! That said…. I love Jesse. He’s a close friend and respect him as a critic and a writer. But I do have to give him shit from time to time.
So yeah. I loved this movie. It’s not exactly perfect, but it’s about as perfect as a summer blockbuster can be. PACIFIC RIM transports you into a world that could have been conceived by a 12-year-old boy. And I mean that in the best possible way. This movie is a total kick ass nerdfest that has nothing but love for the material it’s tackling. Del Toro has made the best blockbuster of the summer! Now, if only the moviegoing public wasn’t full of idiots that loved IDENPENDENCE DAY…….
But seriously, go see this movie dammit! Oh yeah, and my 9-year-old daughter thought this was the best movie ever. I enjoyed watching HER watch the movie just as much as I enjoyed watching the movie myself. This is a great bonding movie if you have little film geeks of your own! Don’t miss this experience in the theater. ★★★½ (out of ★★★★)
- Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief language.
- Running time: 2hrs 11min.