- Pacific Rim
- Director: Guillermo del Toro
- Writers: Travis Beacham, Del Toro
- Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day
Summary: As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.
Pacific Rim is a movie that serves a single purpose: to make you feel like a kid again. From its announcement to its release I expected one thing from this movie; a dumb but fun ride that delivered on massive battles and big geek highlights. But after seeing Del Toro’s latest, I couldn’t help but walk out of the theater a little underwhelmed, even if it still delivered some solid thrills.
As expected, Pacific Rim really is a big dumb ride, one that features the cliche characters, wooden performances, stilted dialogue, and great special effects you imagined it would. What I didn’t expect however, and came as a disappointing shock, is just how much of that there is! For a film about giant robots doing battle with giant alien sea creatures, there was a severe lack of actual stand out combat sequences!
But lets start from the beginning shall we? Pacific Rim opens with a short summary of the events that have lead the world to its current predicament. A portal has awakened at the bottom of the pacific and is transporting extraterrestrial beings known as Kaiju to wreck everything on the surface. To help withstand these attacks and to give humanity a fighting chance the worlds superpowers have put aside their differences and begun funding a special project, the Jaeger program. Similar in theory to XCOM, the Jaeger team is allowed to partner and collaborate with the numerous nations while still playing by their own rules. While initially the Jaeger’s and their pilots are a success story, it is not long before the Kaiju begin to turn the tide of the war and start devastating entire cities and countries, pushing the nations to quit funding the project and start looking elsewhere for answers.
While all of that sounds pretty exciting, instead of choosing to go the global route, Del Toro has chosen to travel down the more intimate road, choosing to focus on several key characters instead of a widespread viewpoint. This is where the problems begin. The heart of the film comes in the form of two pilots as they struggle to overcome their personal demons and unite as a team. Charlie Hunnam plays a once hotshot pilot who, after a battle goes awry, retreats away from the program to make due as a construction worker. Rinko Kikuchi stars as a young woman who dreams of one day piloting her own Jaeger but due to some tragic events in her life has been deemed unworthy of the spotlight. The majority of this film focuses on these two’s budding relationship and their journeys towards redemption. This is a big problem.
Not once throughout this film did I actually care at all about the plight of these two pilots. Not once did I want to see them get together or overcome their pitfalls, I actually kind of wanted the opposite! Where was my mid film twist that saw these two bite the dust and change perspective to one of the other teams that seemed far more interesting? Its not that these two’s stories are exactly bad, its that the character dialogue in this film is awful! As are the performances! As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t expecting a Shakespeare like story with emotional character arcs and knockout acting, but I also wasn’t expecting the movie to try so hard on obtaining some of that. If you are going to forgo extra action moments in favor of character building, then you better get the dialogue right and the actors to give it their all. They don’t.
In the middle of this two hour journey there sits a massive lull that is made up of tired cliches. Scenes that see the veteran pilots looking down and picking fights with the “burnout” and “rookie.” Dialogue that feels as if it were written for a daytime soap and delivery that feels as if it should be featured on them. The worst offender by far however is that of Burn Gorman whose crackpot scientist Gottlieb practically swallows scenes whole with his eccentric bond villain personality. The two bright spots in this overall lackluster cast are certainly Charlie Day and Max Martini. The two do well with what they are given, particularly Max who I would have much rather the film followed.
So how is the actual action? Well up until the final act I was pretty let down with the lack of combat. What little there was suffered from the same pitfalls that befell the violence in Transformers; shaky cam syndrome that was far too close to the fight to discern what was actually happening. For human on human combat I can understand why directors choose to do this, they are hiding the fact that it doesn’t exactly look great, but for an entirely CG battle? This is unacceptable. Luckily things turned around once Tokyo was attacked. There is no question that the entire reason to watch this film happens 80% into the movie with the devastation of Japan. Watching multiple Jaegers from Russia, China, and the US do battle with two unique Kaiju was an immensely satisfying experience and finally gave me what I had paid to see. The camera finally pulled back (even if the fight was, yet again, entirely in the dark and rain) and allowed the audience to watch with giant grins on their faces as these epic beasts duke it out.
It is here that Del Toro really unleashes with the films Anime inspirations, from rocket fueled uppercuts to massive chain swords and even corrosive acid; Pacific Rim was finally firing on all cylinders and it was fantastic. After this exciting battle the film dives into some more melodrama before showcasing its final bout. While the final confrontation was just decent and not great as its predecessor, it was still at least showcasing some more action and that was good. More of that please!
With Pacific Rim Del Toro chose to go a route that I don’t agree with, he chose to focus on the characters and the drama instead of just giving audiences what they really want, massive battles on a scale never before seen. When the film is delivering on that promise it is an incredible experience and if Pacific Rim had been almost two hours of pure bombastic CG anarchy, it could have been something truly special. As it is, it is a film that delivered some thrills but was overall bogged down by its dull characters and insistence on poorly handled dialogue. Pacific Rim is this decades Independance Day, featuring a similar story, similar cliches, and even a similar speech and conclusion, but missing some of the formers more numerous and exciting set pieces. Also, more Russian!
- + Special effects are great
- + World itself is exciting
- + Entire Tokyo sequence
- + Enjoyable cameo
- - Insistence on character moments
- - Writing is poor
- - Acting is hit and miss
- - Not enough action