Growing up, every young boy loves two things: Outer Space, and Godzilla. It’s almost impossible to have been a kid, in any era, and not have loved seeing a giant lizard destroy entire cities. As you grow up, you start to realize that those giant monsters were simply metaphors for humanity’s greed and corruption, but the coolness of a giant beast never stops being cool. Guillermo del Toro was clearly one of those kids and finally got to a point within his career where he decided that he just had to make his own monster movie. What del Toro accomplishes with his own brand of giant monster flicks, Pacific Rim, is a movie that some 6 year old kid will watch and reminisce with friends 15 years from now, “dude remember that movie with the huge robots fighting giant aliens? Man that was so good”.
Just like that, that’s what Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ PACIFIC RIM (yes, that’s REALLY the full title of the film) is all about in a nutshell. A portal to another dimension is exposed in the Pacific Ocean, in which humungous Kaiju (3000-ton amphibious monster) begin attacking coastal cities. After the first attack, which lasted a week and a half, the world thought it was over. Until the 2nd one hit, then the 3rd, and then they just kept coming. Eventually the world started building robots that were equal the size of the monsters called Jaegers. Two people (one controlling the left hemisphere of the brain, the other controlling the right) would captain the huge robot into battle against a Kaiju, fist fighting it until it was dead. Kaiju of bigger size soon became more common, defeating the majority of the Jaegers. Now it’s up to Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam), a has-been Jaeger Pilot, his co-pilot Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) and their Commanding Officer Stacker Pentecoast (Idris Elba) to destroy the portal for good, ending the Kaiju War.
This film essentially feels like everything that Avatar SHOULD have been. Where that film was a massively disappointing and preachy retelling of Pocahontas, Pacific Rim is basically one super awesome ode to films like Gojira, Aliens, Independence Day, and yes, even Transformers, but done 10x better. I mean, seriously, this movie was an insaaaaane amount of fun. It’s one of those flicks where you can joyfully turn your brain off and just enjoy watching a robot put an alien into a Full Nelson headlock.
One of the more enjoyable non Jaeger-vs-Kaiju aspects is a sub-plot involving a scientist named Dr. Newton Geizler (expertly played by It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia‘s Charlie Day) who figures out a way to share minds with the Kaiju, the same way that Jaeger pilots sync up to one another, a process called “The Drift”, using old remnants of dead Kaiju brains. In order to get more brains and obtain more information about the Kaiju’s plans, Geizler seeks out Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman), a dude who sells harvested Kaiju organs on the Black Market. Both actors give off a perfect comedic performance, especially Perlman, who is in his typical state of greatness that comes with a Perlman/del Toro collaboration. The whole subplot actually ends up feeling the most “del Toro” out of anything in the film. It’s odd, quirky, and darkly comical. Plus it’s just great getting to listen to Ron Perlman passionately talk about how much Kaiju poop sells for.
Alas, the main attraction with Pacific Rim is the film’s battles. Rest assured, they are as epic as can be. There are three major battles in the film, and all three offer their own personal points of awesome. Whether it be a battle on the bottom of the ocean floor, or a winged Kaiju fighting a Jaeger in freaking OUTER SPACE, there’s not a dull moment. If these are not the best action pieces in recent memory, they’re at least the best action pieces from your childhood, since maybe seeing the space ships destroy major cities in Independence Day. It’s a marvel seeing these massive creatures pummeling the Jaegers on the big screen. Every now and then during a fight scene del Toro pops in a reference reminder that these creatures are taller than skyscrapers and so when the film’s final fight takes place under water, and the creatures and machines are dwarfed by the massive underwater ridges, it’s a daunting display of how large our oceans truly are.
The only thing keeping this film from having a perfect 5 start rating from me, is the film’s main problem: it’s lead actor. Now I’m not saying that the acting in this movie is perfect, because it’s not. About 90% of the performances are on the same level as James Cameron’s Aliens, but in the same “so cheesy it’s good” kind of way. It’s hard to say that about Charlie Hunnan’s performance, though. This dude was just a talentless rock who has a really strange obsession with holding his crotch for the film’s first half. What’s the matter there dude? Do you wanna go to the bathroom and adjust yourself, or what? It’s spookily reminiscent of Sam Worthington’s performance in Avatar, except shockingly enough, Worthington did it better (ouch). In the end, however, a movie this awesomely fun, it’s hard to discount it because of that.
For that being said, one of Pacific Rim‘s strengths is that it never takes itself seriously. It’s about as much fun as you can possibly have this summer. You’ll immediately be transported back to your younger self being mesmerized by seeing a dude in a lizard costume stepping on cardboard buildings. Except now they’re bigger and way cooler looking and there’s huge robots thrown into the mix! What more could you possibly ask for? Pacific Rim is the real deal. Just make sure that you witness it all in IMAX as the film’s open aspect ratio, native animated 3D rendering, and sheer magnitude really come alive on the bigger screen.
I give Pacific Rim a 4.5 out of 5
By Richard Pepper