Story by Travis Beacham
Screenplay by Travis Beacham and Guillermo del Toro
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
An action packed ride from the first frames, Pacific Rim delivers the giant robots vs. giant monsters action promised, and crafts an entertaining flick around it. Del Toro provides a love letter to a genre he grew up loving, and succeeded in updating it technologically to craft something amazing. Almost every frame is a piece of art by itself. The design and look are outstanding, the jaegers (the giant robots) are banged up and realistic, and the kaiju are scarily beautiful yet deadly looking. Battles encompass multiple environments, from snowy seas of Alaska to the cityscapes of Hong Kong to the ocean floor.
Pacific Rim keeps its flow, the segments where the story is set up feel natural and are done in creative fashion. Following along, our minds are too busy to wander, bereft of distractions and eagerly anticipating the next monster brawl. And when the real action starts, boy does it start.
There are minor spoilers below, but nothing that isn’t in the trailers. But if you don’t want to know anything, just know that Pacific Rim is my favorite film I’ve seen this summer, and possibly 2013. It’s fun, fun, fun, heartfelt and not full of the gritty reluctant heroes that seem to be everywhere. There are giant monster, robots, and it’s awesome.
The fighting is some of the fiercest and deadliest you will see in a humans vs kaiju spectacle. The very first battle shown sees a driver killed, the brother of jaeger pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam), which sends him down his path of being a dejected former hero. The jaegers are controlled by two pilots, who link their minds and control different halves of the robot. When blended together (a process called “drifting”), the pilots share everything, every memory, every feeling, as they’ve essentially become one mind. It also acts as a metaphor for the world of Pacific Rim, where humanity has to work together as one to defeat the menace.
Much of the back story is delivered in succinct flashbacks and news montages, which serves to keep us up to date and give us slices of life in a world where kaiju run rampant as a common occurrence. Humanity banded together to develop the jaegers to fight the kaiju. But the fighting became too easy, then suddenly became too hard. Thus, the jaeger program is being discontinued in favor of just building huge walls along the shores of every continent. Certainly not any sort of immigration statement going on there, especially since a kaiju easily smashes through a wall and everyone realizes the walls do nothing. Throw in some government types saying everyone has been moved to safe zones over the voices of people protesting that only the rich are being taken care of.
The jaeger force goes independent, a resistance movement, complete with a plan by boss Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) to take down the interdimensional rift that the monsters are coming through. But he needs pilots to help control the few jaegers left. Thus reenters Raliegh Becket. Circumstances end with him being teamed with rookie pilot Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), who has her own tragic back story.
Don’t worry, there is the arrogant pilot, the stern leader, and wacky scientists running around to complete the collection of character archetypes. Hipster scientist Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) even mind melds with a chunk of kaiju brains to help formulate a strategy against them, while scoffing mathematician Dr. Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) has also connected some dots. Bonus points for Ron Perlman’s nutty Hannibal Chau character, a chopper who deals with kaiju remains, which have quite a massive demand on the black market. Chau has gold-plated boots, a golden switchblade, and no patience for idiots wasting his time.
If anything, the large amount of jaeger pilots were show act against the film, as some of them exit without us really getting to know them well. You get a feeling each squad would have their own exciting tales to tell. I’m also one of those guys who likes just random information about how the world works in this universe. We see glimpses of supply shortages (after all, most worldwide shipping via the ocean is now extremely dangerous, major coastal cities are wrecked, and supply chains are trashed) and workers forced in dangerous conditions just to get ration cards to eat. Angel Grove never seemed to suffer from it’s constant kaiju bombardment. The characters are as damaged as the world, racked with their survivors guilt, some focused on revenge and some trying to make sense of their lives.
The kaiju are each unique flavors, designed to look different but still have the feel of coming from the same world stock (or as is mentioned in the film, coming from the same DNA source) Some of them end up with specialized weapons that get deployed. The kaiju are measured in category based on their size, the Category 3s were easily dealt with, but when the Category 4s began showing up, it was too much for the jaegers to handle and the numbers dwindled, leading to the wall construction. Of course, each gets a cool nickname as soon as it’s detected.
The story elements feel fine, but once you stop and think about what the plot is demanding it is ludicrous. And that’s not even counting the massive biology errors, a major pet peeve of mine as a biologist. Probably the oddest aspect is how the whole alien motivation is completely ganked from Independence Day, right down to the basic shape of the aliens.
A sincere and honest film, Pacific Rim is giant things fighting, brain melding, and crazy characters, and doesn’t waste time being cute with winks and self-deprecation. It is truly proud and happy of what it is, a bright spot of pride sorely needed in this world of “dark” and “gritty” remakes. 2013’s summer blockbusters feature car drivers with super powers, an actual superhero destroy large sections of a city, multiple attacks on the White House, a remake of an ancient property that seems ashamed of itself, and many films that are vast complex conspiracies of secret parts of a government attacking their own. The general theme is cynicism, and Pacific Rim gives that a big rocket punch to the face. It is nice to see a blockbuster that isn’t amazingly admiring of a fascist police state, doesn’t feature the hero beating up/torturing a bad guy for information, does feature heroes who care about innocent lives in the midst of the chaos. And thank goodness there is no “traitor” to the team, nor a bad guy captured halfway through the movie as part of a plan that involves escaping. Tired modern cliches, you can get out, the giant robots are here!
Yes, I’m yet another one of those internet critics who grew up watching giant robots and monsters fighting, be it Jet Jaguar, Mechagodzilla, or various Rangers and other Japanese heroes. Even the Transformers occasionally fought huge creatures! My love for the genre is solid (heck, there is almost always something featuring giant monsters or robots on the front page of TarsTarkas.NET!) And as one of those self-appointed experts, I can safely say that Pacific Rim delivers the film that would have rocketed to the top of my favorite list had I saw it at age 12. Even now, it’s one of the better films I’ve seen in 2013, and the most fun I’ve had at a summer flick this year. At this preview screening I was at (Yes, Tars has sold out again!), people were cheering and yelling and getting way into the action.
Rated 9/10 (9x Minyas!)
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