Pacific Rim is awesome. It's big, it's brilliant, it's epic, it's Guillermo del Toro. It's also, most importantly, a completely original intellectual property tied in no way to any previous movie, TV show, video game, or other brand or product. Sure it has its influences, Evangelion, Voltron, Power Rangers, Godzilla, but it's an original big budget film that is loads of fun. Which means you need to see it so that Hollywood will take chances and do more films like this. In fact, if you go see Pacific Rim, you won't just be having a good time, you'll be improving the cultural landscape of the world! That's right, you'll be a HERO.
Pacific Rim is the story of humanity's last ditch effort to save the world from massive invading monsters called Kaiju. When the film begins we learn that the Kaiju come into our world through an interdimensional rift on the floor of the Pacific ocean. To combat these immense destructive creatures the countries of the world come together to construct gigantic robots called Jaegers which have to be piloted by two people at the same time. The Jaegers are everything you love about giant robots from Japanese pop culture. They have plasma cannons, giant swords, jet packs, and rocket propelled punches. All of the awesome stuff you'd need to battle Godzilla, or his interdimensional cousins.
In the movie we are introduced to cocky Jaeger pilot Raleigh Becket (Sons of Anarchy's Charlie Hunnam) during the height of his Kaiju-bashing career. However a botched mission that gets his co-pilot killed ends it and leaves him to struggle for several years as a construction worker. He spends his days laboring with thousands to build a defensive wall designed to keep the Kaiju out. The wall is an uncertain plan from a world leadership that is losing faith in the failing Jaeger program. However the commander of the program, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), believes the Jaegers are the only answer and that they must be used to find a way to seal the rift in the ocean once and for all. He finds Raleigh and re-recruits him to pilot his old refurbished Jaeger, the awesomely named Gypsy Danger. Raleigh then travels to Hong Kong where Pentecost plans on launching his final attack. Here he meets Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), a feisty wannabe Jaeger pilot, Dr. Newton Geiszler (It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia's Charlie Day) a Kaiju expert, and the other Jaeger pilots. Together they will try and bring down the other worldly menace of the Kaiju.
On the whole Pacific Rim is an immensely entertaining movie that oozes creativity. It's most entertaining to the nerd, the kid, and the male who has always wanted to see giant robots duke it out with giant monsters on a big budget scale. And while the story, characters, and dialogue are derivative and cheesy at times, the movie works because that's how it's supposed to feel. This is a movie where 300 foot tall robots use elbow boosters to sock behemoth monsters in the face, so of course there's a cocky know it all pilot and a grizzled commander who's been through it all. There's also a plucky wannabe pilot and silly scientists cracking jokes every few seconds. It's all part of Guillermo del Toro's amazing vision to bring what feels like a live-action anime to the big screen.
The greatest part of Pacific Rim is the visual scope that has been achieved. Cavernous hangers housing immense Jaegers, brightly lit cityscapes, oceanic trenches, and the guts of a Kaiju all leap off screen (without the help of 3D) and feel like real places. If you look closely you will see the insane amount of detail that was employed. Del Toro was so thorough that he actually had his crew build a two-story Jaeger cockpit for his actors to stand in and pilot the gigantic robots. They actually had to hook in to the foot pedals and move them with their own legs. Lesser directors would have relegated that to post production and visual effects but del Toro makes the effort and it shows.
Every shot is a rich canvas filled to the brim with eye candy. Worn and rusty computer consoles are juxtaposed with futuristic holographic displays to create an intriguing mishmash of old and new technologies cobbled together by disparate groups of people. It helps add to the realness and the scope of the world del Toro has crafted. As silly as the tone may be you can really imagine this being a real place.
And even though the Jaegers and the Kaiju are mostly CGI, they too look amazing. Fanboys will flip out over the designs of both. The Jaegers hearken back to all kinds of anime-based robots, everything from Gundams to the freaky Evangelions. The Kaiju are arguably more interesting, with odd protruding bills, multiple mouths, and bony whip-like tails.
Seeing the two fight each other is something that has to be experienced on the big screen. At times the fights are obscured by darkness or rain or even a little bit of bad editing. But there are more than enough slow-mo moments and steady long shots of Jaegers pounding on Kaiju to make up for it. There are plenty of beautifully framed uppercuts and elbow smashes that send both Jaeger and Kaiju flying through air, water, and building. Del Toro uses all of his nerdy artistic talent to achieve some truly awe-inspiring battle scenes.
Pacific Rim's conflict is on a global scale and as such, it addresses the reality that many nations and peoples would have to come together to combat the Kaiju. While Hunnam's character is a typically good-looking blond hero, Riko Kikuchi's Mako Mori is a strong Japanese heroine who is not relegated to the role of love interest. It was a nice change of pace to see Hunnam's character sort of mentor her instead of hit on her and try to sleep with her. Both Hunnam and Kikuchi have solid chemistry despite fairly wooden performances.
Idris Elba however is as cool as ever. He has an amazing ability to elevate cheesy dialogue and make you forget how silly it all is. Why this man hasn't starred in his own film yet is beyond me.
My favorite cast member however is the scene stealing Charlie Day. His performance is kind of like if Charlie from It's Always Sunny was really smart and knew how to dissect alien monsters. Day has some great scenes with Burn Gorman, who plays what is basically a real life version of a cartoon professor, and Ron Perlman who plays Hannibal Chau, a Kaiju remains dealer.
Although Pacific Rim isn't a serious film, it isn't meant to be. Screenwriters Travis Beacham and Guillermo del Toro aren't concerned with lending a Dark Knight-style feel to their giant monster movie. I mean, it's a giant monster movie, it's supposed to be ridiculous.
So please, go see this movie. It's all the things that a summer blockbuster should be. It's big, it's bombastic, it has heart, and it's ORIGINAL. Something Hollywood doesn't do enough of. 4 out of 5 stars.