Director Guillermo del Toro unleashes his long awaited summer blockbuster Pacific Rim on multiplexes everywhere this weekend. It’s by far the biggest film del Toro has undertaken and he’s left all the money on screen. But the story driving the robot and sea monster battling action and the performances, from a cast featuring some recognizable faces and names but lacking a major star, are not without issues sometimes distracts from the amazing effects and action on display.
When monsters known as Kaiju start rising from the sea, the war for our planet begins. To combat the giant Kaiju, a special type of weapon is devised: massive robots called Jaegers, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge allowing the pair to react and behave as one. But even the Jaegers are proving nearly defenceless in the face of the relentless Kaiju after initial success. On the verge of defeat following the evolution of Kaiju fighting techniques, the forces defending mankind have no choice but to turn to two unlikely heroes, a washed up former pilot (Charlie Hunnam) and an untested trainee (Rinko Kikuchi), who are teamed to drive a legendary but seemingly obsolete Jaeger from the past.
There’s no underestimating the visual wizardry on screen here. The battles are beautiful to watch, brilliantly staged, epic encounters in every way, and del Toro has directed one of the most flawlessly crafted CGI extravaganzas ever made. Hunnam, Kikuchi and Idris Elba are all great here in the main performances of the film. Hunnam is the affable, disgraced everyman in need of redemption. Kikuchi gets to play the longshot rookie that who’s the best woman for the job despite her own demons. Elba, sadly missing a cigar to chomp down on, brings some gravitas and humour to the role of the weathered and grizzled vet that puts them together despite his own wishes. Ron Perlman shows up in another scene stealing role as a black market kingpin, complete with gold tipped shoes. It’s all pretty clichéd stuff, and at times way too melodramatic for its own good, but it’s done with a real sense of love and affection for the material. Besides, something has to hold together all this robotic carnage and when you have robots and sea creatures fighting, you’ve already thrown your right to be serious about things out the window.
The biggest issues come in the form of the uninspired and unfunny comic relief that appears in the form of Charlie Day and Burn Gorman. Of the pair Day is the more grating and annoying as the token scientist that’s spent years studying th biology of the Kaiju to the point where he has become a bit of a fanboy “groupie”, while Gorman’s attempts to channel Crispin Glover just fall flat. The duo’s impact on the film comes via an imaginative yet inevitable and foreseeable twist that plays out over the last act. The impact of this twist doesn’t make up for having to deal with Day’s character for the rest of the film, yet the character as a whole doesn’t derail the film entirely, either. In fact repeat viewings, with this knowledge beforehand, it should increase overall enjoyment of the film.
Pacific Rim looks due to join the ranks of films like Independence Day and The Rock as things that will inevitably show up on late night cable and suck you in for a couple of hours every time they do. Imminently re-watchable, it might not be the best popcorn flick of the year, but it’s certainly is one of the most fun. Please It’s worth getting off your couch and get out to a theater for this one, preferably in the stunning IMAX presentation. Waiting for the home video version would definitely be a grave disservice, then again, that’s probably where most of the watching of the film will happen, anyway.UHunn