Review: Del Toro's 'Pacific Rim' is Awesome, and That's All It Needs
by Jeremy Kirk
July 12, 2013
You have to admire Guillermo del Toro. The man has turned his love for monsters into a career crafting some of the most fun (Hellboy) and most personally poignant (Pan's Labyrinth) films to come along. His latest, Pacific Rim, is a little flimsy on the poignant side, which leaves plenty of room for fun. They need a lot of room. These monsters are huge. The drama in Pacific Rim leaves something to be desired, but the spectacle and sheer power that resonates from giant, otherworldly monsters doing battle with giant, mechanical monsters blows your mind. It's one of the reasons why the word "awesome" was invented.
But Pacific Rim isn't about the attack from those enormous monsters, the Kaiju, who rise up from some, strange, dimensional rift at the bottom of the ocean. It's not even about mankind's downfall and eventual attack back with those behemoth robots, or Jaegers (pronounced like the awful liquor), under its control. From the beginning, del Toro spins his film the opposite direction from the expected, shows us all of that with news reports and Charlie Hunnam narration, and sets his film 12 years into the Kaiju War. It's like watching the third part of a trilogy without the benefit of sitting through the first two films.
To del Toro and co-writers Travis Beacham's (also story by) credit, we get caught up on most of the characters and events that factor into the big picture. Hunnam plays Raleigh Beckett, a pilot of one of the Jaegers, the Gipsy Danger, who gave up on the fight five years prior when his co-pilot/brother was killed. When he's called back into action for Earth's final stand against the monsters, Rinko Kikuchi plays his new, trainee co-pilot who has some personal (and emotional) scores to settle against the monsters. Idris Elba plays Stacker Pentecost, a Jaeger Sergeant General (or something like that) whose name might shout louder than any of the monsters in the actual film. And who cooler than Elba to play him?
It's light on the character, transparent thin in some cases. Even Beckett's emotional baggage about losing his brother seems to get swept aside once the real stars of the show make their appearance. You wouldn't expect anything but the biggest and most badass when it comes to Guillermo del Toro, and his amazing design team, creating skyscraper-tall monsters fighting one another. The designs on the Kaiju are as creepy as they are interesting, and you almost curse del Toro for shooting them in such darkness. But it goes with the movie's tone, so allow it.
The designs on the Jaeger's, however, are far more interesting. It's not just cool exterior molds and look of these mammoth robots, though they each do have plenty of that. Gipsy Danger's World War II-era paint job is a nice touch. The Jaegers require two pilots to control them, one to handle each side of the machine's suitably massive brain. This causes the two pilots to share memories, join as one mentally, and drive the robot as one individual. It's a very cool concept, and one that's almost convoluted enough to fit in with Pacific Rim's Japanese manga roots.
Once these mechanical creatures put fists to skulls with the enormous Kaiju, you completely understand why del Toro wanted to take on this project. You can almost imagine the man, much like a kid, playing with the imagery of the city-demolishing melees he now had in his control. It's very difficult not to get swept up in the excitement right along with him. The battles in Pacific Rim aren't aplenty, but what they lose in quantity, they make up for in creativity and complete awesomeness. They are nothing but fucking cool.
Yes, amidst all of this amazing action that puts shame to the very word "scope," the drama that's even trying to work itself out is miniscule. As good as Kikuchi and Hunnam are, they can't contend. The connection via Jaeger plays into the story and the drama, but no deeper connection is ever fleshed out, despite what the film ultimately shows us. Charlie Day as a scientist and Kaiju fanatic has some great interplay with Ron Perlman as a "businessman" who sells Kaiju parts on the black market. Pacific Rim is loaded with genuine entertainment, but watching Day and Perlman spar with dialogue may be as fun as anything else in the film.
But whether it's getting blown away by the visual and audible (these monsters pack some pretty mean punches) delight on constant display or the comedy working its way into the cracks the lackluster drama leaves, Pacific Rim has entertainment in droves. Guillermo del Toro remains a master of monsters, imagining worlds bigger than us then visualizing them for everyone to see. It's not the amount of times it pulls at your heartstrings when the movie at hand is something like Pacific Rim. It's the amount of times you mentally said "Holy shit" and let the grin shine from ear to ear. At that, Pacific Rim triumphs.
Jeremy's Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Reader Feedback - 22 Comments
Can't wait for this. Too bad it isn't out in Norway until next month.
Nielsen700 on Jul 12, 2013
Or you can see it Oslo on the 18th
David Banner on Jul 12, 2013
Or maybe I can't, since I don't live there.
Nielsen700 on Jul 12, 2013
If you really wanted to see it as soon as possible, you could fly down to Oslo, it's rather cheap. Looks like a cool event, gigantic outdoors midnight screening at Akershus Festning (the Keep) on July 18th.
Ola on Jul 13, 2013
That does seem cool. Won't be able to do it that day though.
Nielsen700 on Jul 13, 2013
Good review Jeremy. It's all so very corny and dumb, but you can't help but enjoy the hell out of the proceedings, as loud and explosive as they may be.
Dan O'Neill on Jul 12, 2013
I saw the movie last night and your review is spot on. It took a while for me to get any kind of connection with the characters in the movie because of the focus being on the actual Jaeger's and monsters. But I did not go into seeing this movie looking for that. I saw it because I wanted to see kick ass fighting between monsters and robots!!! and boy did it deliver. The little Asian girl stole the show. That whole flash back was terrifying and she rocked it. That was the turning point for me on the character development and sucked me into the story. I loved this movie for what it is... a crazy ass Godzilla style monster fighting movie! Im going to see it again.
seb on Jul 12, 2013
"They are nothing but fucking cool" now I've got a semi chub and need to see this ASAP
Jon Odishaw on Jul 12, 2013
I can't wait to see this film over the weekend. This one has been on my list since it was first mentioned on the internet, and from the sounds of it, they deliver.
dbucks on Jul 12, 2013
If you expecting a good movie go see something else awful acting and story. 4/10-Great monster robot fights so awesome 9/10.
Robot4life on Jul 12, 2013
This is the poster IMAX was giving out last night for the early birds
Robot4life on Jul 12, 2013
saw it twice already. freakin loved it. Some complained that the other Jaegers didn't have a big enough role, but The movie is about the hero Gipsy Danger. And you get plenty of her and its awesome as shit. and if you wanted more story, go read Tales from Year Zero, the prequel comic. its a quick and fun read. I haven't screamed and cheered at the movie screen this loud before either. There were so many "Holy Shit" moments.
Jacob Denton on Jul 12, 2013
Loved it. Saw it twice. I am old school, so I remember Shogun Warrior, Ultra man, Godzilla, Big O, Gatchaman, etc...so I saw as it a love letter to those. The only thing my 9 yr old nephew could compare it to is Power Rangers and Michael Bay's Transformers....kids these days.
mooreworthy on Jul 12, 2013
"I remember Shogun Warrior, Ultra man, Godzilla, Big O, Gatchaman..." same here. Much respect to you. Plan on catching PR next week--this is one of the major summer films (along with MAN OF STEEL) that I am _definitely_ interested in seeing.
Scopedog on Jul 12, 2013
Imax if you can Scopedog!
mooreworthy on Jul 12, 2013
Gonna have to disagree here. Every character in this is flat and a stereotype/archetype/caricature (the war-torn man who has to overcome and avenge the death of his brother, the bigoted jock of a son with daddy issues, the scarred female (the only female, may I add) who has to prove herself as worthy in the boy's club, even down to the nerdy scientists who battle theories, and the list goes on...) rather than being well-rounded characters with their story told. And I don't even think it lives up to the action-packed, CG-marvel everyone's making it out to be. Yes, it's epic and sweeping and built its robots and monsters well, but, this may seem like a nitpicky thing, but let's just say I was disappointed in del Toro's not-so-well-disguised need to shoot all the fight scenes at night so you can't see what's going on. That in combination with what's-become-standard unnecessary close-up shots and fast cutting leaves the audience with not much actual visual information and instead very blatantly forces the vibe of "action-packed" in your face when it's really not. In the end, it really just had way too much of a Starship Troopers feel to it (cue cheesey lines like "We're cancelling the apocalypse!" and campy shots like that of the Newton's Cradle) and that's a shame because del Toro can be much better than Verhoeven.
Eric Odenheimer on Jul 13, 2013
You are 100% correct. This movie could have had better character exposition. But, would it have made it a better movie? No, just a different movie. And not trying to be trite here, but maybe you don't understand. Not the movie, but the POINT of the movie. Sorry, but these movies have NEVER been about the people. (Well, Neon Genesis Evangelion did pretty good) It's about the robots and the monsters.
Black Widow on Jul 13, 2013
A good and fair review. Although I didn't really find the drama or characters really lackluster. I cared about most of the characters, especially Raleigh and Mako. I especially loved watching this on the RPX screen. The movie is just awesome.
Lamar on Jul 13, 2013
Thanks Jeremy. // I loved it! I would score it at 9/10. I loved the action bits. The acting was good enough. Hunnam basically did his Jax character from SONS OF ANARCHY, which I was okay with, and Kikuchi-san was great! Day and Pearlman's interaction was priceless, along with the poncy, British character, that guy is so funny. I did think it was weird how they had so much digital rain at times it blocked the action sequences. Overall, I thought it was a fun adventure with so many amazing OMG moments.
DAVIDPD on Jul 14, 2013
Now, if Del toro can also make Macross/ Robotech alive in the big screen, that will be too awesome!!!
pablo G on Jul 16, 2013
I intend to go with a lover! great if that happens
friv on Jul 19, 2013
Finally had a chance to see this movie and boy did I love it. I give it a 10/10 and this is what I want to see in summer Blockbusters. Great story with great action. If you like Godzilla and Evangelion, then you will love this movie. My only issue was the ending, exactly like Independence Day, but the movie was good enough that you really don't care. Del Toro is a director who really pushes limits and I for one am glad he does. Whenever his name is attached to a project, you know its going to be gold. Loved it more then Superman.
Blkstar on Jul 30, 2013
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