by Nicholas Benson
Monsters, giant robots, Ron Perlman in gold-plated dress shoes, and as if that weren’t enough, the story’s not half bad either. The visionary director of Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro returns to directing for the first time since 2008’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army and churns out a science fantasy epic with visuals that make Avatar look like a cheap Saturday morning cartoon.
Pacific Rim takes place in a world where a portal to another dimension has opened up beneath the ocean and randomly unleashes giant monsters nicknamed Kaiju. Much like hurricanes, these monsters are named and categorized and devastate the coastal cities of the world. In order to fight this threat the nations of the world unite to build massive robots called Jaegers to fight the Kaiju in hand to hand combat. However, in order to control the Jaegers, two trained pilots must merge their brains and fight together.
Our story takes place in the year 2025, when the Jaeger project is being shut down in favor of a giant wall to be built around coastal regions that are frequently in threat of Kaiju attacks. In a last-ditch effort to save the Jaeger project and humanity, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), the military leader in charge of the program, rounds up the remaining Jaegers and pilots to make one final effort to shut the portal for good.
We follow washed up pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and his untested copilot Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) as they pilot Jaeger Gypsie Diver to lead the final fight against the Kaiju.
Pacific Rim is not without flaws. I think a lot of people will walk out of this movie thinking that something just didn’t feel right. The story was fine, the action was amazing, but there just was not the spark that the buildup to this movie promised. I think the reason for that is simple: it was poorly casted. Much like that awkward footage of Back to the Future with Eric Stolts as Marty Mcfly, Charlie Hunnam is perfectly fine, but misses all the hero beats and really is not the character that the script calls for. This movie needed a Michael J. Fox or a Will Smith to really tie the cast together, and honestly Channing Tatum would have been perfect.
Take the scenes with Ron Perlman and Charlie Day as proof. They were acting in the movie that this was supposed to be, a fun fantasy film. Even if their characters were mostly irrelevant, I loved their chemistry and wanted more. On the other hand, every time it cut to Hunnam, no matter how magnificent the set pieces around him, I felt like I was in a present-day run-of-the-mill military film.
But why am I talking about actors? That’s not why anyone is paying to see this particular movie. We’re paying to see breathtaking fight sequences, which is exactly where this movie shines. The fight scenes play really well. There is something inexplicably exciting about watching a Jaguer put a Kaiju into a headlock. Each action sequence is more breathtaking than the last and really, even if you hate the movie, these parts are well worth the price of an IMAX ticket.
With Pacific Rim, Del Toro and the writers have created an incredibly unique and interesting universe that you just want to immerse yourself in. The attention to detail is staggering. Beyond the incredible set pieces, every Kaiju and Jaeger has a unique history, a cool name, and vastly different design. Even though this movie stands firmly on its own two robot feet, it’s ripe for franchising. Kids are going to want to buy their favorite Jaeger or Kaiju action figure, fans of all ages are going to probably go out and buy the prequel graphic novel Tales from Year Zero, and I predict that we are going to see a Pacific Rim cartoon series sooner rather than later (possibly competing with Star Wars Rebels set to premiere on Disney XD next year). Even those who have reservations about the movie will admit they want to see more movies made to this scale and within this incredible universe.
Overall, Pacific Rim is loud and clunky, but it’s loaded with heart and, simply put, it’s by far the coolest movie of the summer. I have a feeling that a lot of reviews are going to say something like, “If I were nine years old I would love this movie.” I’m not 9 years old and I loved this movie. However, if you have a nine year old, do not let them miss this. Just be prepared to stop at the toy store on your way home.