Somewhere between the minds that created Japanese Manga, mecha beasts and Hell demons comes Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim. Offering a glutinous feast of sight and sound for all the senses, Hollywood’s latest entry into the monster movie cannon is the personification of the Americanized Japanese blockbuster. While the spate of recent apocalyptic fare has offered up cynicism with its dose of explosive, Del Toro’s monster flick has far more optimism written in. Like the historical nature of the Japanese monster movie, there is a very clear definition between good and evil, and much of the characters’ hope comes from the promise of a rising sun.
Pacific Rim is massive, both in size and detail, and throws the viewer into the middle of the coda from the onset. Humanity has been thrust into a titanic battle with giant monsters that have emerged from the depths of our oceans. These leviathans (known as Kaijus) came through the seas and have forced humanity to build equally terrifying mechanical beasts (built as Jaegers) in retaliation. This exposition comes very quickly in the opening stanza of the film, and before you can dig in to your popcorn we’re shot 5 years into the present where the battle between man-made beast and beast is at its pinnacle. It’s a little bit of a shame we do not get the same gradual storytelling the way Independence Day unfolded, as while there is no time wasted before we’re into the meat of Pacific Rim, it would be have been a fascinating exploration into the reveal of these monsters if Del Toro would have spent more than 5 minutes explaining their sudden appearance on Earth.
The cast is led by the booming presence of Idris Elba, whose headstrong-into-battle marshalling of the supporting cast is a pretty decent homage to Bill Pullman’s noble Presidential turn in ID4 (right down to the motivational speech). Alongside, Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) portrays Raleigh Beckett, your everyman hero; talented and charismatic, leading the charge against the monsters. His occasional brooding is brought upon by the burden of his past, and serves as both motivation and a hindrance to his return into the Jaeger program. His new co-pilot is Rinko Kikuchi’s (Babel) Mako Mori, whose deft touch to deceiving Asian frailty is offset by her ability to nail down her need to kick-ass when required. Similarly, her backstory takes the audience to perhaps the film’s most touching moment- the young Mako hunted through the city streets by a Kaiju (played by youngster Mana Ashida, who already has 23 titles to her resume). There is a real terrifying sense of hopelessness and fear to her character, and it really takes the audience far into the film’s best human moment.
As humanity and their machines battle the beasts, we find that the Kaiju continue to evolve and that their end game is unexpected. It is up to two wily scientists (played with some timely humour by Charlie Day and with odd Britishness by Burn Gorman) to figure out a way to effectively end the Kaiju menace. From here, we’re treated to some of the most exhilarating and breathtaking big screen CGI battles we’ve ever seen, and there is almost an operatic tone to Del Toro’s vision. While Michael Bay and Zack Snyder are happy to punch you in the head for 2+ hours, Del Toro adds a little song and dance to the fold. From the oceans to the metropolis streets, the collision of steel and flesh unfolds in the most effective and detailed carnage yet. It’s beautiful destruction without the fatigue.
“Those who grew up with Japanese robot cinema, or even kooky television shows like Dai Sentai Goggle-V, will know that there is a youthful veneer to all the beasts and destruction.”
Expectedly, there is some glorious cheese to the dialogue (and the Australian accents placed on the Australian Jaeger pilots are at times, excruciating), but Del Toro and screenwriter Travis Beacham know that it isn’t Shakespearean context that will successfully connect all the action. It’s about being funny at the right times, being overly dramatic in others, and doing their best to be human the rest. Those who grew up with Japanese robot cinema, or even kooky television shows like Dai Sentai Goggle-V, will know that there is a youthful veneer to all the beasts and destruction. It says that while there is evil, there are good protectors that will defend and fight for the rest of humanity. And in contrast to all the computer generated modernity of the picture, much of Pacific Rim is old fashioned in its sensibilities.
With Del Toro’s eye for detail, some good casting and a seriously fun attitude, Pacific Rim does what films like the Hollywood version of Godzilla couldn’t do; make the ridiculous believable, exciting and at times, just immensely breathtaking. Go see Pacific Rim at the largest screened cinema you can find, where the audio is cranked up to 11, and where they’ll charge you an extra few dollars for 3D glasses. You will be entertained.
Directed by: Guillermo Del Toro
Written by: Travis Beachham, Guillermo Del Toro
Cast: Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kickuchi, Charlie Day
Released by: Warner Bros.