“Pacific Rim” is big, loud, and, above all, exciting and interesting. There are lots of crashes and bangs as those huge CGI creatures clashing with each other on the big screen, but this is not one of those bland, bloated blockbusters numbing our nerve ends. It is numbing to watch at times, but this humongous piece of work is handled with skill and passion even when it staggers due to its heavy weight. Unlike those dreadful Transformers sequels, the movie has a fairly adequate story to pull us into its action sequences, and it is also a bountiful visual experience which always has something to behold even when it becomes loud and busy.
The movie is clearly inspired by those Japanese animation series featuring giant robots such as Neon Genesis Evangelion. When I was very young, I and my little brother used to watch some of them on TV, and, as far as I could remember, we had a good time with them though I cannot possibly watch them again with straight face now. Those big robots in the animation series usually fought against equally big creatures appearing on the Earth for various fantastic reasons, and this was surely as preposterous as Japanese monster movies, which are another major inspiration of the movie.
In its long prologue sequence, the movie shows us how the human civilization has been disrupted by huge monsters called Kaijus and how the humanity has counterattacked for years. The portal connected to somewhere in the outer space was suddenly opened at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, and, as soon as they came out of the portal and rose above the ocean surface, Kaijus wreaked havoc on many coastal cities including San Francisco, Manila, Tokyo, and others. They can be killed, but the collateral damage was always enormous in the end, and it looked like the end of civilization to many people on the Earth as the attacks became more intense year by year.
Fortunately, through the global collaboration, the humanity found a more effective way to deal with this apocalyptic catastrophe. They built giant robots named Jaegers, and they also developed the advanced technology called ‘drift’ to link human brain with Jaeger for quick response and flexible control. Due to the complex handling quite burdensome to one pilot, the robots were designed to be controlled by two pilots, and, because their minds are openly connected with each other to work together within Jaeger’s head, strong teamwork is always required in any case.
The Jaegers of Pan Pacific Defense Corps(PPDC) have successfully taken care of Kaijus for a while, but the situation becomes more difficult. Kaiju attacks become more frequent than ever, and they sort of evolve to defeat Jaegers. The national leaders decide to drop the Jaeger project, and the big walls for protecting coastal cities are built or being built around the world, but, as you have already guessed, they are not so effective in front of those aggressive monsters driven to kill and destroy everything in their sights.
While the humanity seems to be losing, Stacker Pentecost(Idris Elba), an ex-Jaeger pilot and the commander of PPDC, has a plan. He prepares for the plan behind his back as gathering Jaegers and their pilots at the Headquarter in Hong Kong, and we see various robots being repaired and tested while looking around the headquarter. The director/co-writer Guillermo del Toro and his crew fill the scenes with big and small details, and we can appreciate robots as the machines which have been used for years through the grime and rust on their surface. They do not look colorful, but they are distinctive in metallic sense, and so are their pilots, though they are mostly broad characters including the tough father and son pilots from Australia.
Pentacost personally recruits Raliegh Becket(Charlie Hunnam), ex-Jaeger pilot who lost his brother/co-pilot 5 years ago during their mission near Alaska. Becker is reluctant at first, but he is eventually back to his position, and he is soon teamed with Mako Mori(Rinko Kikuchi) as his new partner. Like Becket, she has a personal issue to deal with despite her talent, and the movie gives some time to them as they bond as partners(but not as lovers – at least in this time).
It is a bit dragged after the prologue, but the movie takes its time to establish the story and characters and their world. As a director who has fascinated us with strange and weird creatures in his great film “Pan’s Labyrinth”(2006) and Hellboy films, De Toro has a slimy and sticky fun with his monsters in the movie. The monsters in the movie usually appear during night, so we cannot see them clearly sometimes, but I must say they look both terrifying and wonderful with teeth, claws, fluorescent lights, and some surprises they have behind their thick skin. We are later introduced to a black market place where the various body parts of Kaiju are illegally sold at high price(not so surprisingly, people unreasonably believe they are good for health), and Ron Perlman, a long-time collaborator of del Toro, enjoys his brief appearance with gusto as a swaggering big-time broker.
While the action scenes in the movie are big and loud as expected, they are visually satisfying with palpable dramatic impact. Thanks to convincing performances and excellent special effects, we can believe the characters are really battling against monsters, and the movie rarely loses the sense of awe and excitement while putting everything into its epic spectacles on the screen. The action scene are dark and 3D glasses is not so recommendable under this condition, but we can see what is going on even at the most frantic moment, and Ramin Djawadi’s electrifying score enhances many action highlights in the film.
Compared to the size of its technical achievement, the story and characters feel small in comparison, but the actors ably fill their roles and support the story. Idris Elba is commanding in his uniform and suits, and you can believe his character’s fierce dedication in spite of his truly silly name. Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi are believable as the partners getting to know each other, and I especially like hyperkinetic Dr. Newton Geiszler(Charlie Day) and fastidious Dr. Herbert Gottlieb(Burn Gorman), a comic duo constantly bickering with each other while studying Kaijus and trying to get any information helpful to them and others by any means necessary.
The director Guillermo del Toro not only excites us but also shares with us his love and passion toward his materials here, and the result is a rare blockbuster film equipped with artistic sensibility and imagination. The movie works both as a sincere and passionate homage and as an enjoyable and competent entertainment, and you may enjoy it even if you are not familiar with its inspirations. This big package is a little too thin for supporting its many visual goodies, but it is a big movie which rightfully deserves to be big, and it does impress us with its jubilant spirit inside its heavy body.
What is this genre called? King Kong Summerbuster?
SC: Monster flick, perhaps?
Nice review Seongyong. Had a wonderful time with this flick, even if I did feel like it dropped the ball a bit on it’s script.
SC: It could have been better, but it is better than most of the blockbusters released in this year.