Pacific Rim

© 2013 Ray Wong

Clearly influenced by Japanese anime of giant combat robots and monsters (Kaiju in Japanese), del Toro's Pacific Rim is unabashedly bombastic, loud, larger than life, and fun.

After the first Kaiju's (big monsters) destroyed some of the world's biggest cities, the world reacted by creating the Jaeger project: Jaegers are giant robots that can fight and defeat the Kaiju's. But the way that Jaeger works require two pilots who are "drift compatible" to operate; the Jaeger proves to be too dangerous for one person to handle. Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) is one of the Jaeger pilots. But after his brother/co-pilot was killed in one of the battles, Raleigh quits the program and retreats into obscurity.

Five years later, the Jaeger project is being shut down as the world's government determines that the Jaegers are insufficient to stop the Kaiju's, which are coming at increasing frequency, through an inter- dimensional rift deep under the Pacific Ocean. Director Pentecost (Idris Elba) decides to run the operation as a rote project, and he recruits Raleigh again as he is one of the remaining pilots. At the base, Raleigh meets science officer Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) who happens to be a pilot-in-training and more important, drift compatible with him.

At Raleigh's insistence, Pentecost agrees to let Mako become Raleigh's co-pilot, but Mako's emotional instability threatens everyone's safety and the effectiveness of the Jaegers. Because Raleigh is connected to Mako, he discovers from her memories a deep secret. When the Kaiju's threaten to put a final nail in the coffin for mankind, the remaining four Jaegers must rise to the occasion and defend Earth, maybe for the last time.

Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) successfully channels a young Heath Ledger or Garrett Hedlund as the would-be hero. The character Raleigh is handsome, charming, and sensitive. He is also an alpha male. Hunnam has done a good job, in a broad action-adventure way. Idris Elba (Prometheus) once again plays the military type as Director Pentecost, and he does it really well with great resolve, authority, and heart. 

Rinko Kikuchi (Shanghai) impresses as the unlikely heroine of the story. As Mako, Kikuchi is smart, typically Asian (meaning quiet and respectful), but also resourceful and resilient as the strong, silent type. She and Hunnam have good chemistry together to portray the would-be lovers.

The supporting cast comprises of good actors doing typical, cliched comic-book characters. Charlie Day (Monsters University) is particularly annoying as Dr. Newton Geiszler who is more of a buffoon than a scientist (and why do filmmakers always depict scientists as these buffoons?). Burn Gorman (Johnny English Reborn) is Day's counterpart and is just as foolish. Max Martini (Colombiana) reminds me of Sean Bean in The Lord of the Rings even though he's playing a futuristic Jaeger pilot. Robert Kazinsky (Red Tails) is all cocky as Raleigh's rivalry. Clifton Collins Jr. (Parker) is a bit lost in a minor role, and Ron Perlman (Bad Ass) has a flashy role as a "Chinese" smuggler.

The screenplay by Travis Beacham (Clash of the Titans) and Guillermo del Toro (Don't be Afraid of the Dark) follows a pretty simple, standard framework of a sci-fi action adventure. The premise and story remind us of yet another giant robot-alien franchise: The Transformers. The comparison is inevitable.  Fortunately, Beacham and del Toro have done a better job developing the characters and plot between the big fights and set pieces. Their characters are at least believable and likable, and there are actually scenes that move the characters forward instead of just letting them be chess pieces.

Still, this is a giant robot vs. giant monster movie, so don't expect Shakespearean writing and character development. What we've come to see are, you guess it, giant robots fighting giant monsters. And we get what we deserve. Under del Toro's unapologetic direction, the actions are bombastic with full-on energy. Everything is done on a grand scale, including the mass destructions. It brings us back to the pure joy and awe of watching old Godzilla  movies in which the giant monster destroys the entire city. Here, we get to see the Jaegers and the Kaiju's destroy San Francisco, Tokyo, and Hong Kong with style. That's got to be satisfying.

Still, del Toro has a few missteps. He gives away the plot too quickly in a rushed prologue that leaves not much to the imagination. There are not enough scenes where we can witness the awesomeness of the Kaiju's (or the Jaegers, for that matter). There are way too many scenes shot at night or in dark situations, and too many close ups that it's difficult to discern what is going on. At times the action sequences become so repetitive that I start to worry: "Is this yet another Michael Bay's Transformers?"

Well, del Toro is no Michael Bay. He's much better. Granted, Pacific Rim is nothing as profound and beautiful as Pan's Labyrinth. But as genre sci-fi action/adventure, it does a good job entertaining us with bombastic larger-than-life action sequences and out of the world special effects. With its international cast and exotic locations -- and did I mention giant robots and monsters? -- this should do very well at the home box-office and around the Pacific Rim.

Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Max Martini, Robert Kazinsky, Clifton Collins Jr., Ron Perlman
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writers: Travis Beacham, Gullermo del Toro
Distributor: Warner Bros.
MPAA Rating:  PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, brief language
Running Time: 132 minutes


Script - 7
Performance - 7
Direction - 8
Cinematography - 8
Music/Sound - 7
Editing - 7
Production - 8

Total - 7.5 out of 10.0 

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