Guillermo del Toro’s overblown Pacific Rim has everything a 10-year-old boy could ever ask for in a film.
The visuals are stylish, the effects superlative and the battle sequences are among the biggest and loudest you will ever see.
And while del Toro’s enthusiasm is indeed infectious, Pacific Rim never quite transcends the Saturday morning cartoon/anime/monster
genre that so heavily inspired it.
Pacific Rim takes place in the not too distant future after an inter-dimensional portal opens deep beneath the Pacific Ocean. The Kaiju
emerge, huge beasts hell-bent on the destruction of everything and anything in their path.
To counter, we create Jaegers- Massive robots piloted by a pair of humans to do battle with the Kaiju.
These battles are the centerpieces of Pacific Rim. They are spectacularly realized and genuinely intense. But as you might imagine, it’s the
human side that suffers at the expense of these extended sequences.
Character development is minimal, with most of the main cast relegated to spouting clichéd action movie dialog.
The film does attempt to give its main characters meaningful backstories, but none are of much interest. Del Toro does get credit for trying
here. This alone elevates Pacific Rim above some of its peers. (Transformers, cough)
Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba and Rinko Kikuchi are all adequate, if a little stiff. Perhaps they realized that they exist to justify the action and
not the other way around.
Thankfully, the supporting cast actually features a couple fun performances that provide some levity among the chaos.
Ron Perlman (Del Toro’s frequent partner in crime) gets to ham it up as Hannibal Chau, a sleazy black market Kaiju dealer. His appearance
is all-too-brief, but definitely memorable.
Even better is Charlie Day, who turns in a hilarious performance as scientist/Kaiju groupie Dr. Newton Geiszler. Day’s hyper, high-pitched
delivery is constantly amusing.
It’s made even funnier because ‘Newt’ is a dead-on caricature of filmmaker J.J. Abrams. The hair, the glasses, and the hyper-active
mannerisms can’t be a coincidence, can they? Hell, we know the guy loves monster movies judging by Cloverfield and Super 8.
And there’s an important distinction worth noting there. Abrams’ films put new twists on the genre, whereas Pacific Rim is just bigger and
While it’s very easy to harp on the film’s simplicity and lack of narrative ingenuity, there really is a lot to like in Pacific Rim. Sure, it’s style
over substance all the way, but the energy and spectacle is here.
The art direction, cinematography and visual effects are absolutely outstanding.
Del Toro’s frantic camerawork takes the action right to the brink of being incomprehensible without ever crossing too far over the line. The
same goes for the editing. It’s just really damn cool to see these massive beasts and bots duke it out with fists, cannons and tankers. All
this intercut with the pilots screaming and fighting inside the machines makes for a fairly exhilarating experience.
Even composer Ramin Djawadi gets into the action with a rocking, adrenaline-pumped score.
Del Toro also does a nice job varying these sequences with fights amid hurricanes, in cities and even in the skies.
The highlight is a Kaiju assault on Hong Kong which combines just about all of the above. It’s a complete barrage on the senses and really
As you can probably tell, I did enjoy this film for what it is. Except for the relatively stock ending, that is.
This is a film that will satisfy fans of the genre, but won’t convert anyone else.
The kid inside me loved the outlandish action and superb visuals, but as a self-proclaimed critic, I simply can’t ignore its shallow nature.
Pacific Rim is pure eye-candy. Paired with a decent sense of humor it almost succeeds as a fun popcorn flick. Unfortunately, the film is too
shallow, with human characters that are nearly as robotic as the giant machines they pilot.
Pacific Rim is a definite guilty pleasure, but a good film it is not.
* * ½
(out of four)
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Written by: Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi,
Charlie Day, Rob Kazinsky, Max Martini, Ron Perlman
Music by: Ramin Djawadi
Cinematography by: Guillermo Navarro
Released: July 12, 2013; 132 Minutes