Brendon has been showing Pacific Rim mad love on this site for weeks now. It’s safe to say he likes it. One of his central points is that Pacific Rim is not a Transformers rip-off. He’s right. It isn’t.
But people who like the Transformers films are going to love this movie. People who like Japanese comics about giant robots are going to love this movie too. People who have always wanted to see Godzilla done right are going to love this movie. People who played Portal are going to love this movie. And people who were just hoping for a really really well-converted 3D action epic are going to love this movie.
Me, I thought it was OK.
Ah, I’m kidding. Pacific Rim is one underdeveloped subplot away from Summer blockbuster perfection. It’s a big dumb movie that’s fun to watch – but it manages to be epic and daft without insulting the viewer’s intelligence. Unlike some films I could mention…
Pacific Rim is a harder, darker, more physically present film than Transformers. The giant mechs have a palpable weight in every scene. You feel as if you might have an idea how these things work.
The cast are…while not exactly unknowns….not exactly big marquee names. A few faces will be familiar to British TV viewers. Charlie Hunnam started his career in Ant & Dec’s kiddiesoap Byker Grove. And Idris Elba made his first forays into in public awareness with a stint on Family Affairs, the Channel 5 soap opera that not even Idris’s Mum watched. He has, in fairness, done a couple of other things since. Luther, The Wire, Thor. Stuff like that.
Instead of frittering money away on big-name actors director Guillermo Del Toro has put every penny of the (reported) $180 million budget on the screen. He built a practical set for the Jaeger cockpits, and then larded Iron Man style CG control panels on top. The result is a slick, futuristic, but slightly greasy working environment that looks exactly how you might think the inside of a huge combat robot might look.
OK, I know the Jaegers aren’t strictly robots. But you know what I mean.
The bad guys, the Kaiju, look pretty much how you imagine giant homicidal Cloverfield beasts from another dimension might look as well. They’re excellently realised: and if the method by which they’re delivered to Earth suffers from some slightly inconsistent handwavium science-talk, at least it’s novel.
Then again, I’m aware of the preposterousness implicit in questioning the science in a movie about giant humanoid fighting machines duking it out with even gianter transdimensional Cthulu beasties.
Beasties that only, for some reason, attack at night. While it’s raining.
There was an almost thrown-away line explaining why the Kaiju have picked this (near-future) point in human history to attack. Something to do with dinosaurs and (I think) climate change. But where Pacific Rim scores over (say) Avatar is in its admirable lack of subtext. You wanted to see giant robots — giant robots with swords — punch monsters in the face? That’s what you get. And no tree-hugging.
Once you’ve swallowed the premise – a task made easy by an elegant prologue – it’s fun all the way. Some particular highlights for me were the battle that is fought while the plot of The Perfect Storm goes on below, the Thunderbirds launch sequence for the Jaegers and the captivating charisma of Rinko Kikuchi, who plays Jaeger expert Mako Mori.
Some of the other Jaeger pilots are a little undercharacterised, and the subplot involving Ron Perlman’s Kaiju trophy hunter and Charlie Day as a crackpot scientist doesn’t get enough enough screen time to unfold properly, but this is minor stuff. Especially as those things just go to demonstrate how we could easily afford to take another couple of trips to the world of Pacific Rim.
Idris Elba is great, if maybe a shade too young as the ridiculously-named Jaeger supremo Stacker Pentecost. Charlie Hunnam has a fairly straightforward hero role to play, and is perfectly fine in it. Charlie Day grabs all the best lines.
The stars of the thing, though, are Andrew Neskoromny’s spectacular production design and the amazing special effects by ILM. You’re going to want to see this movie in the biggest, loudest cinema you can find.
I would have liked to know more about the lives and personalities of the Jaeger pilots and their fruitloop scientist backup team, but that would have required the more dilatory pace of a TV miniseries. And there’s no way something this huge is going to be made on a TV budget any time soon. You know how ads for movies always say “only in cinemas” ? They really mean it this time.
My biggest negative was the disappointment that Gypsy Danger was the name of a robot, and not a Daily Mail headline. Oh. And nobody mentions Mechagodzilla. Not even once.
Pacific Rim is a big noisy popcorn-eating blockbuster that isn’t exactly going to change anyone’s life, but will give most viewers around 131 minutes of delirious fun.
Which sounds to me like a pretty reasonable deal.