Reviewed by Ian Forbes
Watching a trailer for Pacific Rim, I instantly assumed it would be essentially Godzilla vs Robot Jox. Watching the movie Pacific Rim, I learned that I was essentially right.
Director/co-writer Guillermo del Toro brings his penchant for monster design here to a much grander scale. The film is set not too far into the future, where a dimensional rift has allowed gigantic creatures to emerge and wreak havoc upon human civilization. The world powers unite to create giant robots named Jaegers, which conveniently for the story’s sake require two pilots merging their consciousnesses together in order to control them. They call this act ‘drifting’, and the notion of how powerful that kind of connection between people can be is about as deep as the script gets as far as character development.
That’s fine of course, because when you’re making a ridiculously expensive movie about colossal behemoths fighting giant robots, most of the audience would prefer the characters shut up and fight. To his credit, del Toro generally understands this and while the few moments the story attempts to grow a brain are mostly laughable, there’s usually not much time between one fight and the next.
What makes Pacific Rim impressive is the scale in which confrontations are set. Watching one Jaeger use a giant boat as a club or a monster level a skyscraper with minimal effort is a fun sight to behold. Even more impressive is that the 3D in the film is actually quite good. Rather than mimic most movies that only concentrate on making the opening sequence stand out, there’s both an immersive nature throughout the film and a number of non-gimmicky elements hurled towards the camera that work well. If you’re going to see this movie, seeing it in 3D is the way to go.
Perhaps the only real disappointment in del Toro’s approach was setting so much of the movie in the dark of the night. Only some early scenes and the odd battle here or there take place while the sun is up. Leaving the theater, I joked that they should have called this Midnight Rim: Hong Kong Drift. Hmm … that’s less funny on paper … and if you didn’t know the home base for the Jaegers is in Hong Kong … oh well. It also would have been nice for the monsters to have some personality but they were fairly interchangeable aside from their particular method of attack.
I’d talk about the acting but there’s really not much point. The characters are all stereotypes of one thing or another and they interact with each other just as stereotypically. Even the comic relief, coming via Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, and del Toro mainstay Ron Perlman, is just barely on the right side of being over the top vs. cloying annoyance. Their moments provide a break from the grim tone carried out throughout the rest of the movie so while they weren’t very inspired, it was necessary to balance out the overall picture (and something Man of Steel could have sorely used).
The selling point is the massive scale on which the fights take place and to that end, the movie delivers. Sure, it’s basically like mashing together Robot Jox, Godzilla, Cloverfield, Top Gun, Independence Day, and Hellboy but those are all perfect summer movies and so is Pacific Rim (okay, maybe Robot Jox isn’t perfect but I love that cheesy 80s stuff). You get what you pay for in this case and that’s not something I can say about most of the big budget spectacles that have graced theaters this year.
Pacific Rim opens in theaters on July 11, 2013 and is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief language.
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