Review: Pacific Rim

Posted by Matthew on July 13, 2013
Movies, Reviews

Pacific Rim

You don’t need to read this. I’d like you to but there’s no need. Pacific Rim is awesome and you should go see it. I’ll tell you why but it really doesn’t matter, just go enjoy it because it’s the best big budget action movie of the summer so far, this year so far, and the most fun I’ve had at the movies in what must be years.

Seriously, Pacific Rim is exactly as simple as it’s trailers promised. Somewhere in the nearish future a portal to an alien dimension has opened up at the bottom of the ocean and through it an unending tide of giant monsters, Kaiju, have been attacking earth with increasing frequency. In order to combat them Earth lets go of all old grudges and rivalries and bands together to build giant robots, Jaegers, to fight them because of course we would do that.

Somewhere along the way the Kaiju start winning, governments get scared and move to shut down the Jaeger program in favour of hiding behind walls and what remains of the glbal Jaeger program band together in Hong Kong for a last ditch all out assault on the portal itself to try and end the war. And that’s it, there’s no navel gazing in this movie, no “let’s explore the grey areas of the morality of what we are doing” or “what am I going to do with the amount of power I’ve been handed” or “I can’t take the pressure of protecting the world”, there’s just “HOLY SHIT A GIANT MONSTER GET IN THIS GIANT ROBOT AND GO PUNCH IT IN THE FACE!”

Let’s not mince words here, this movie is everything that a big summer movie is supposed to be: epic, ambitious, imaginative, engrossing, and above all it’s fucking fun.

And yes, you’re thinking that giant monsters aren’t really anything new, however Guillermo del Toro looked to the past for inspiration rather than something to be remade. Basically he must be a fan of Godilla and Power Rangers and every other franchise where giant monsters attack Asia and he thought “what would this look like if I had two hundred million dollars to throw at it?” You know what the result is? It looks incredible.

The robots and monsters look as good as your 12 year old self imagined them and better yet in every instance where a practical effect can be used –basically anytime a person is on screen and they need to physically interact with something– practical effects are used. Yes, we have 3D holographic interfaces for computers, but they also built sets for the cockpit of the Jaegers and the actors are working with real props rather than green gimp suits and placeholders, the result of which is that the whole movie feels incredibly genuine.

You may be wondering about the actors and the answer is that everyone is at least as good as they need to be to pull at what they are doing. I kind of love how everyone in this is a B-Lister at best too, which means that no one person overshadowed anyone else and they were able to function as a coherent ensemble. Standouts for me were Charlie Day as as Manic American Stereotype Scientist, Burn Gorman as Stammering British Stereotype Scientist as they brought the requisite del Toro weirdness to the movies while basically everyone else is some form of hero archetype. Also the eccentric American with a Chinese name underworld character is played to great effect by Ron Perlman because of course he is.

And yes, most characters are some kind of stereo type. Idris Elba is General McArmy, the leader an rock that keeps the program running, Charlie Hunnam is the Heroic Hero who has to overcome a personal tragedy to get back in the cockpit with new Partner Rinko Kikuchi as perfect-for-the-job New Girl who’s being held back by the general for reasons that’ll be obvious if you’ve seen movies before. Oh, and she is Japanese and she has blue highlights in her bangs because of course she does. Other Jaeger pilots are played by stereotypes from around the world, including my personal favourites: The Clones of Ivan Drago driving Russian Jaeger Cherno Alpha.

I keep referring to co pilots and that’s another ingenious piece of storytelling here, the mental strain of driving a Jaeger is so great that it takes two people to do it and their minds sync via “the drift”, effectively a technological version of a Vulcan mind meld, and the more in sync they two pilots are they netter they can make the robot fight. Not only does this lend itself to some pretty cool visuals, but it takes the “can these two work together” dynamic and rather than leaving it as just another cliche plot point the movie has to slog through and makes it a central plot point: the main characters have to get past their baggage and differences because it will let them punch monsters in the face more effectively.

And let me tell you, robots punching monsters in the face is pretty incredible to watch. The big second act fight which takes place in Hong Kong is worth the price of admission by itself, but every fight in this movie is fun and imaginative and just a pleasure to behold and the monsters and robots themselves are beautifully designed and executed.

Let me be blunt: I love this movie. I love this movie for a lot of reasons but mainly I love this movie because it’s a throwback from another time; A time when movie heroes were allowed to be heroes simply because being heroic was the right thing to do, a time when we creators looked for inspiration in the past rather than something to be remade, rebooted or sequelized, and a time when we were not just allowed but expected to just sit back and let our childlike sense of wonder take over and enjoy a spectacle on screen.

So why are you still reading this? Go to the movies and watch giant robots punch giant monsters in the face!

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