Everybody was Kaiju fighting! —
Giant robots fight giant monsters in an epic battle to save all of humanity. There’s probably not much else to say, but I’m going to do it anyway!
In the year 2013, a rift in the Pacific Ocean opens up, unleashing giant monsters from another dimension known as Kaiju, to wage war against humanity, killing millions in their wake. In order to combat this threat, the world unites to create giant robots called Jaegers, controlled from within by two pilots through a “neural handshake” — a process that connects their brains, allowing them to each control a hemisphere of the Jaeger and immediately share all thoughts and memories between the two. In the years that follow, it seems that we are winning, but suddenly, the onslaught of Kaijus continues to increase, and we must fight harder than ever to survive this potentially apocalyptic ordeal.
Charlie Hunnam (in a wooden, but serviceable performance) stars as hot shot Jaeger pilot Raleigh Becket, returning to the trenches of war seven years after a personal tragedy caused him to give up the fight and rejoin civilization. He is eventually paired up with rookie pilot Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi, in the only female role to have more than a couple of lines) to helm a refurbished version of his former Jaeger, Gypsy Danger.
Idris Elba barks out orders and demands respect as Stacker Pentecost (with a name like that, you’d take orders from him too!), head of the Jaeger program. Not since Independence Day have we seen such a rousing pep-talk as the one Stacker delivers just prior to the final battle. He is also given an interesting backstory that reveals itself in portions throughout the movie, providing motivation for some of his earlier actions.
Comic relief is found through a pair of scientists, played almost as anime characters, by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman, They constantly butt heads in their opposite approaches to solving the world’s Kaiju problem. Also appearing briefly, but memorably, is del Toro regular Ron Perlman, as a peddler in the black market of body parts, salvaged from downed Kaijus (in a very nice, but subtle touch, we see glimpses of his area of town, having been built around the immovable Kaiju skeletons).
After a quick montage at the beginning of the film, catches the viewer up on the events leading to the present, and a very exciting first Jaeger/Kaiju battle, the movie slows down considerably as relationships are built, pilots are trained, and solutions are researched. But, once the action kicks back in, it’s a thrilling ride to the end.
The script, by Guillermo del Toro (directing his first film since Hellboy II) and Travis Beacham (based on an original story by Beacham) is cliche-ridden and the majority of the developments involving the humans and their inter-personal stories are spoiled by every other movie that you have ever seen. But, it seems that del Toro and Beacham are well aware that cliches and unoriginal plot development are exactly what we NEED in a movie like this to bridge the scenes between what we’re all there to see – robot and monster tussles. On this front, Pacific Rim more than delivers. They both seem to have tapped into their inner 13-year-old selves to make this movie and viewers will do the same while watching. Although there may not be quite as much running time devoted to the battles as we might have hoped for, the action that we do get more than justifies the price of the ticket. Besides the amazing CGI effects and brilliant production design, the fights are shot very cleanly so that we can actually see what is going on. Quick cuts and shaky cam are thrown by the wayside so that we can truly appreciate the work that went into the epic battles.
Of course, as with any summer blockbuster, there are also going to be some negatives involved (besides the previously mentioned slow patches and not particularly charismatic lead performance). Roughly 10 species of Kaiju are mentioned in the film, but several are not very distinguishable from the others. All, however, are quite amazingly realized and a few are absolute knockouts. Also, when we are given the explanation as to why the Kaiju invasion is happening, an intriguing development is introduced, but not brought to it’s full potential. This element could have taken the story to a whole other level, but again, that’s not why we’re here. Lastly, the 3D (which was added in post) was not particularly compelling and did not add much to the proceedings. These are minor nitpicks, but noticeable nonetheless.
Jason’s Final Thoughts
The summer movie season is about halfway through, and, in my opinion, Pacific Rim is the blockbuster to beat. This is a movie that knows exactly who it’s audience is and how to give them what they want. This movie is an absolute blast and the only thing that could have made it any better is if the Kaiju had been played by men in rubber suits!
Review by Jason Howard, special to Influx Magazine
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