Film Review: Pacific Rim (M) (USA, 2013)

Guillermo Del Toro’s gargantuan Pacific Rim is every bit as fun as its trailer promised us. Forget the snotty, negative stigma that often surrounds overblown sci-fi/action films; this one makes up for any perceived lack of brains with so much brawn that you won’t be able to help yourself high-fiving and cheering whenever a destruction-driven battle scene pops up.

Sadly, we are robbed of a build-up to the discovery of the monsters/aliens (Kaiju – Japanese term for ‘strange beast’) and are instead given us a neat little montage to quickly bring us up to speed with the whole situation. Man has created giant robots called Jaegers to match the strength and size of the Kaiju, monsters which are seemingly emerging from another dimension from underneath the sea. By using two pilots each to “drift” (synchronise) with the Jaegers’ minds and kick some Kaiju ass, the world managed to put up a decent fight, at least for a while. With it all sounding a bit too simple and straight forward from the start, politics and psychology are quickly thrown in and analysed for most of the movie, giving us some clever ways the writers have played around with the use of these robots.

Despite the bureaucratic idea to stop funding the Jaeger program when things start falling apart, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elbra) remains insistent on using these robots to save the world, with the help of leading man Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnman) and other badly-named pilots. With two pilots to a robot, the duo must be “drift compatible,” that is, the pilots need to be able to sync not only with the giant robot brain, but also with each other; this is where some interesting ideas come into play. The notion of meditation and quieting your mind is of utmost importance during drifting and, of course, this gives rise to a few problems as the psychological interplay between Becket and his eventual co-pilot (Rinko Kikuchi) brings up a few issues.

The jumps in logic here will be teased out by nit-pickers, but the few plot holes don’t seem to matter when you are shouting at the screen in a similar fashion to a 10 year old watching Mighty Morphin Power Rangers; there’s too much excitement to leave room for you to even care about the script.

What would a ridiculous action movie be without ridiculous characters? Funny-man Charlie Day portrays an over-excited scientist that really should be on adderall and Burn Gorman plays his co-worker, who suffers from a severe case of over-acting. Even Hellboy’s Ron Perlman makes a surprise appearance as some neon-noir Hong Kong black market pimp. Despite the obvious cheap attempts at comedic value each of these characters bring to the peripheral plot, they make for a very involving storyline.

Elbra gives his best big-screen performance yet as the secretive leader of the Jaegar program, and despite laughable dialogue and the need for more personality, he and his cohorts manage to get in some decent character development. Words of warning: when the cheap string-heavy soundtrack starts to play, know to lower your expectations in terms of the movie’s script.

Climate change is alluded to throughout the movie. Having the monsters referred to by categories (much like hurricanes), and one of the discoveries by Charlie Day’s character are not-so-subtle moves to hammer home the notion that we are doing a great job at degrading the Earth ourselves. This is the extent of social commentary in Pacific Rim, leaving the messages to other films while we are given more stylised mass destruction than any movie this year – yes, even World War Z and Man of Steel.

Aside from some unnecessary shaky camera-work during a few battle scenes, the movie is visually-stunning and the production design – particularly on the monsters – is a stand-out aspect. Del Toro has gone above and beyond to make sure his first shot at mixing Japanese monster movies with state of the art blockbuster carnage is as every bit impressive as the over the top trailer.

Pacific Rim doesn’t try to be anything more than what we have been promised, and it stretches its niche to the outer most limits, redefining its trite genre and giving you one of most enjoyable viewing experiences since Independence Day; you will be hard pressed to pick out a favourite scene.

Movie RatingFOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Rating: M
Runtime: 131 Minutes

Pacific Rim is currently in cinemas nation-wide