Come on, don’t tell me this doesn’t look cool.
by Ken B.
DISCLAIMER: I saw it in 2D. Because 3D is terrible.
There are elements of countless other movies in Pacific Rim – the Toho-era Godzilla films are obvious, but you’ll notice hints of countless other summer movies. But this is a good example of the art that is making a big, loud, expensive blockbuster. This is a movie that is full of fitting life and energy, and does not overstay its welcome.
It starts in 2013, where giant monsters (Kaijus) come out of the ocean and wreak havoc on the world. Skip forward to 2020, where the powers of the world have constructed absurdly large human powered robots (Jaegers) run by two people (early experiments proved it was too much for one controller). Two heads are better than one, after all. When both pilots are placed inside the robot, their minds, memories, and skills are merged in a process referred to by the somewhat cheesy title of the “neural handshake”. The first 20 minutes of the movie take place here, where we’re introduced to Raleigh Becket (CHARLIE HUNNAM), a soldier/pilot with his brother Yancy (DIEGO KLATTENHOFF). They attempt to take down one of the Kaijus, but Yancy is killed and the robot is damaged.
Skip forward to 2025 (this is the last time skip). A bitter Raleigh is called back in to a Hong Kong base to control an even bigger robot. He is under the command of Stacker Pentecost (IDRIS ELBA), whose assistant Mako (RINKO KIKUCHI). She desperately wants to co-pilot a Jaeger but is denied repeatedly by Stacker, due to a traumatic experience Mako had with a Kaiju in her childhood. That is the essential plot, but there are important characters found in two scientists, Newton (CHARLIE DAY), who discovers an important breakthrough in tracking down the Kaiju, and Hermann Gotlieb (BURN GORMAN), an uptight, bookish British mathematical worker.
See all those character names I’ve been listing? For most of them, I had to consult the studio-supplied information on the iMDB, because most of them are not said out loud more than once or twice in this 131 minute film. (Or maybe there are, but the sounds of giant monsters and robots fighting overpowered it). Yes, this movie delivers in the visual and sound department, much like other action movies. But there’s something different about Pacific Rim. It recognizes its existence as a “light, airy” (using director Guillermo del Toro’s own words) movie. It’s important that an action movie have a good story, but not underuse it to the grounds of stupidity, but also not overdo it and underuse the big special effects. One of the laziest and most lame-brained defenses of a summer blockbuster to nay-sayers is “It’s an action movie with [insert basic premise here]! What were you expecting?”. This is only evident proof a studio’s grip in the PR department, leading non-suspecting viewers into accepting a poorer film on the grounds of budget. I now say that the reason to defend Pacific Rim is because it knows its target audience – males starting from age 12 and working up through the middle age – and works to it, but does not insult it. It knows about what the demographic wants (explosions, robots, etc.) and gives it to them – while supplying a story, and a resolute lack of spelling every last detail out (although there are a lot of details spelled out, of course). There are some failures in the story section, but they are not catastrophic.
And about that story, I must re-affirm its lack of originality, with a most notable Independence Day (another good, fun, cheesy blockbuster) feel (foreign attack, big military retaliation, over-the-top speech from commander before final fight, commander being in final fight…).
If you’re going to see Pacific Rim, the only place it will ever be any use is in a multiplex on a large screen with a big sound system. In 2D. (While a brief examination lead me to believe I was duped brightness-wise by the projector, it couldn’t be improved by wearing sunglasses inside.) This is a movie that can only be seriously experienced on the largest of venues, and will more likely than not come off as a joke upon its home media release (unless you’ve a very good home theater).
EDIT(Jan. 26, 2014): It’s actually not that bad on home media. The Blu-ray transfer is great. However, as I predicted, it’s not as aweing as the initial theater viewing was.