Giant robots fighting giant monsters, cities destroyed, and the impending end of humanity’s very existence are all here in Guillermo del Toro’s love letter to the 12 year old in all of us.
There was a time before “life” became too busy and responsibilities took over, where the world was full of wonder and having fun wasn’t a chore. Pacific Rim doesn’t try to remind us of that, instead it “Rocket Elbow Punches” you back there and makes no apologies. Del Toro has taken his love for traditional Japanese monster movies like Godzilla, added in giant robots, and had them throw down in a most spectacular fashion.
We learn that giant monsters known as Kaiju are invading Earth through a portal deep within the Pacific Ocean and in order to stop them we build giant robots known as Jaegers. These Jaegers require two humans to meld minds in what is known as “the Drift” to pilot. We have become so good at killing the Kaiju that Jaeger pilots become celebrities and the Kaiju are no longer consider a threat. In fact, the world has integrated the remains of the Kaiju into everyday life such as statues and buildings made with Kaiju bones. However, that changes when the largest of these monsters emerge and start destroying the Jaegers faster than we can build them.
Fast forward 5 years later where the higher ups decide building a “wall of life” is a better method of survival than the Jaegers. Of course that fails and Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) the man in charge of the Jaeger program has to recruit once celebrated Jaeger pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) to return to the fight. Raleigh lost his brother and was still in “the Drift” when he died causing him to never want to pilot again. This doesn’t stop our hero for long and he joins Stacker’s last ditch effort in saving mankind.
The entire cast plays an important role and gives their characters depth and spirit that most summer blockbusters seem to overlook. None of these actors are household names and not having a big named actor in this film is a positive for me as they don’t pull me out of the experience just by being someone like Tom Cruise. The constant bickering between Kaiju experts Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Gottleib (Burn Gorman) make for some of the funniest moments but never falls into absurdity or do they ever overstay their usefulness. Del Toro regular Ron Pearlman makes an appearance and newcomer Rinko Kikuchi whose character Mako Mori actually has a satisfying story progression.
In fact, a flashback dream sequence involving Mako is one of my favorite scenes in the film. It portrays the Kaiju as terrible and frightening as they should be and gives us a sense of the significant impact they have on all our lives.
As far as action is concerned it delivers time and time again. Del Toro never reverts to camera tricks and shaky cam to try and make the fights look cool or interesting. Instead, he makes everything clear, easy to see, and as big as possible. Sure there is a lot of rain and most of the battles take place at night, however there is never a fight that feels cheap or makes you ask yourself was that it?
The amount of destruction never felt unnecessary or over the top. Actually, it was just that. It was over the top but in the best way possible. Moreover the destruction and mayhem was like a of rite of passage that provides the characters with the motivation and desire to fight back and destroy the Kaiju. And we want to fight back right with them.
The one negative I have with this film is a plot device that is clearly a plot device that doesn’t make any sense based on what the audience was told no more than 20 minutes prior. If you’re looking to pick apart the plot of this film you came to the wrong movie. You are here to see badass robots fight badass monsters and the best part is that Guillermo del Toro manages to infuse it with heart and soul that whisks you away to the inner 12 year old that forgets about reality and just wants to see things go BOOM.
Pacific Rim isn’t a cinematic masterpiece. What it is though is what I always hoped a live-action-cartoon-anime-giant-monsters-fighting-giant-mech-robots would be, pure unadulterated fun.