Review – Pacific Rim

The essence of sugar powered cereal and Saturday morning cartoons is bottled up and attached to fireworks, and the resulting explosion of joy is ‘Pacific Rim’. Director/co-writer Guillermo del Toro has created a hyperactive gothic science fiction world that dazzles with epic scope and heroics.

Monsters known as the Kaiju start appearing on Earth via a portal in the ocean, and they start attacking major cities. World leaders put their conflicts aside and unite to build giant robots to fight the Kaiju called, Jaegers, which require two human pilots who share a mental connection to drive the machines. The Jaeger program is under pressure as the Kaiju threat intensifies and the last remaining pilots must work together to stop the assault.

Del Toro wastes no time getting into the story by culling back the first contact aspect of mankind’s encounters with the Kaiju. A swift montage at the beginning lays down the foundation of the story well and the film dives headfirst into the conflict. In the company of Jaeger pilot, Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) you’re at the battle station as a Kaiju appears to cause chaos. Watching a Jaeger launch for the first time is similar to the buzz associated with a NASA rocket launch. The opening brawl is a road test of the ideas and concepts at play in ‘Pacific Rim’ and after watching an astonishing Kaiju and Jager bout, it’s revealed that del Toro is only in prologue mode as the opening titles appear. Minutes in medical attention may be required for jaw dislocation.

‘Pacific Rim’ continues to astound throughout with spectacular battles that display incredible special effects with wonderful clarity. Often films burdened with excessive digital effects can be alienating, but del Toro and his effects team give each Jaeger a battered look and mechanical steam-punk feel that gives personality to each moving part of the giant metal punching machines. Each Jaeger is full of surprises and de Toro does a fantastic job of revealing the gadgets onboard in each fight. The Kaiju are all menacing with each creature carrying a little Godzilla DNA and a brutality to match their fearsome appearance. The Kaiju verses Jaeger throw-downs are where del Toro flexes his cartoon inspired theatrics the most and it’s pure ecstasy.

The Jaegers cannot operate without their drivers and it’s the human side of the story where ‘Pacific Rim’ earns its gallant badge of honour. Mental fortitude is required for Jaeger pilots to work effectively together as well as sharing a consciousness. Through the communal mindset each character’s hopes and fears are revealed. Each Kaiju fight sees them not only beating the pulp out of monstrosities, but slaying a few personal demons too. The central relationship of the film between Becket and co-pilot Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) highlights the emotional toll of the struggle as they relive painful memories together. Overcoming the aches of the past make them better fighters and their bond is sealed. It’s a nice intimate touch in a film that’s constantly exploding with spectacle.

The actors overcompensate to fit the bombastic world that surrounds them. Hunnam has to play most of the material straight as the grizzled protagonist, while Kikuchi’s eyes are always set to wondrous amazement despite mostly shining in the film’s quieter moments. Idris Elba is great as the authoritative champion of the Jager program, Charlie Day and Burn Gorman have a wild time playing cartoonish scientists and there is a neat appearance from Ron Pearlman as a black market Kaiju parts dealer. Despite the effort of the cast, they are working with bland and plot heavy dialogue from del Toro and co-writer Travis Beacham. The biggest fault in their screenplay is the presence of two Australian characters (Max Martini and Robert Kazinsky) that seem to be an amalgamation of Iceman from ‘Top Gun’. Even worse, the accents from non-Australian actors, Martini and Kazinsky, are dire and earplugs may be essential when they speak to avoid hearing loss no matter which badge is on your passport.

Del Toro and Beacham make the wise decision of giving ‘Pacific Rim’ a global flavour that unites the world in fighting a common threat. The Jaeger’s aren’t just protecting the hallowed soil of the United States of America, which is the case in so many Hollywood blockbusters, and the change is refreshing. The environments reflect the bruises from Kaiju attacks and del Toro’s design team does a fantastic job of making everything look roughed up with a mechanical gothic aesthetic. The final finesse on ‘Pacific Rim’ is the score by Ramin Djawadi that thrashes with metal inspired orchestral movements and heavy metal guitars that’s a blacksmith’s delight.

There aren’t enough fist-pumps in the world to properly convey the awesomeness of ‘Pacific Rim’. I tried while watching the film, but my arm hurt before it hit the halfway mark.


Cameron Williams
The Popcorn Junkie

Poster via Mondo