If you don’t like this movie you might not have a soul: “Pacific Rim”

July 14, 2013


Pacific Rim, ah Pacific Rim. Well, this is pretty much the reason motion pictures were invented. About 120 years ago some dudes figured out a way to project moving images against a white background, and one of them—I think his name was Dave–said to the other (Lyle, I believe), “Awesome! Now we just gotta wait until CGI is invented so we can show giant robots punching monsters in the face!” It’s true. That’s a fact. You can look it up in, like, books and stuff. But don’t do it now, because right now you should be seeing Pacific Rim. Are you seeing Pacific Rim right now? If not, why not? This movie is pretty much the alpha and the omega of the art form. Because—let me restate—Giant. Robots. Punching. Monsters. In. The. Face.

I could pretty much end this review right here, but I’ve got nothing better to do, so lemme roll out why Pacific Rim is such a shot of awesomesauce straight to the nutsack. So, this movie does some serious world-building in its first ten minutes or so. Taking place in the 2020s or so, Director Guillermo del Toro presents us with a world besieged by giant monsters—called kaiju, after the genre of Japanese monster movies that began with Godzilla—which have emerged from another universe through and inter dimensional rift deep beneath the Pacific Ocean.

As the film explains, when humanity realized that conventional weapons were largely ineffective against the kaiju they banded together to create massive hunter-killer robots called Jaegers (“hunter” in German). Jaegers are piloted by two humans who’s brains are linked directly with the robot creating a kind of gestalt called “the drift.”

Jaegers worked for a while, but soon the kaiju became more ferocious and their attacks more numerous, and the Jaegers were outmatched. Humanity decided to build a giant wall—called, literally, “The Wall of Life,” a name that just begs for a kaiju to smash through the thing. And that’s where this movie begins.

"Oh shit."

“Oh shit.”

A former Jaeger pilot, Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam), is coaxed back to the program from a self-imposed exile following the death of his brother and co-pilot five years earlier. Coxing him is his former CO Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), once the Supreme Allied Commander of the Jaegers, but now reduced to slapping together a small resistance force of Jaegers that the rest of the world doesn’t have much faith in anymore.

Well, you can probably see where the movie is headed: Pentecost is launching a last-ditch effort to destroy the rift, and needs Beckett to lead the charge. Beckett must come to trust his new co-pilot, the tough (and very fetching) Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), and regain the respect of the rest of his squad. Meanwhile, two eccentric scientists (Charlie Day and Burn Gorman) tackle the problem from the analytical end in an homage to all those ‘50s monster movies in which egg-headed scientists toil away over test-tubes and beakers while the military blast away infectively at the invaders.

Oh yeah, and Ron Perlman’s in it too. He’s just freaking awesome. You gotta see him.

So, wow, that’s a lot of unpacking, and yet the movie zips right along. Say this for del Toro, he can create worlds with a minimum of effort. What’s more, he populates them with vividly-drawn characters. Now, sure, the characters in Pacific Rim are all fairly stereotypical—the unsure hero, the stalwart commander, the goofy scientists—but you have to remember this is a movie in which a giant robot uses an oil-tanker as a baseball bat! So…what? You’re expecting Altmanesque naturalism here?

The point is, every character has an arc, and every arc has a payoff. Sweet Lord, I’d almost given up on Hollywood’s ability to craft a coherent screenplay, but del Toro spins a neat, effective screenplay that every author of every bloated, nigh-incoherent summer blockbuster should be forced to study.

And action directors should be forced to study del Toro’s directoral style, which manages to be thrilling and cheeky in equal measures. He frames his shots to perfectly capture the epic scale of these beasts and make their battles both exciting and coherent.

Del Toro wisely makes Pacific Rim an ensemble piece, which helps cover for the fact that Hunnam really isn’t a very strong actor. His face is all doughy and his American accent is all over the place (I should say accents since he seems to adopt a different one from scene to scene).

Yeah, this dude is gonna save us from giant monsters.

Yeah, this dude is gonna save us from giant monsters.

But, hey, you got Elba filling the testosterone quota, and Gorman and Day playing up the broad comedy of their characters (Day is a slight variation on his It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia character, while Gorman plays his character like a tweedy professor, transplanted from the 1800s). And then you have Ron Perlman showing up in steampunk goggles and gold-plated shoes, making this the best movie ever.

I'm so stealing this outfit for the next casual Friday.

I’m so stealing this outfit for the next casual Friday.

Man, there’s so much good stuff to say about this movie I could go on and on. But that would be wasting valuable time you could use to see Pacific Rim. Because, at last, Hollywood managed to cough up a light, fun summer spectacle. I mean, giant robots fighting monsters, fer chrissakes! How do you go wrong with that?

Stray thoughts:

* Beckett and Mori’s robot has a ginormous sword that can turn any kaiju into sushi with a minimum of effort, but they only remember they have it after they’ve spent most of the fight hitting the monsters with their fists. Apparently Voltron was one of their training officers or something.

* Have I mentioned how cute Rinko Kikuchi is? She’s really cute.

* Ron Perlman makes everything more awesome.

* Really, how was that wall idea supposed to work? What, were the kaiju supposed to just get bored and go away?

* The Jaeger HQ is called “The Shatterdome.” If I ever have a secret lair, I’m totally calling it that.

Let me be clear: Giant Robots. That fight giant monsters. Okay, Hollywood, you can stop now. Your work is done.


  1. Shatterdome>Shatnerdome.
    I know what I’m calling my secret lair.

    • Shatnerdome! I wish I’d thought of that!

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