Monday, July 8, 2013

Pacific Rim Review

The biggest blockbuster of the year will finally be unleashed on the world this week. Pacific Rim is Guillermo del Toro's love letter to the mecha and giant monster movies of his youth and no other film this year can match the scope, size or pure spectacle of this 131 minutes of pure fun.

Hit the jump to hear my thoughts on a film that mashes Independence Day, Evangelion and Cloverfield into one of my favourite big screen experiences of the year.

Pacific Rim has copped some unfair flack in the lead up to its release. Labelled as yet another Transformers style abomination and just as easily dismissed, it has flown under the radar this blockbuster season. While we've all clamoured for Iron Man, Man of Steel or Star Trek, we've ignored the only truly original film in the bunch. In an era of sequels, reboots and remakes Pacific Rim is wholly original. Sure it may riff on a plethora of anime and giant monsters films but it's a brand new world build from the ground up by director Guillermo del Toro.

An opening narration and montage sets the scene. In the near future giant creatures have invaded our planet. Rather than arriving from space, these behemoths have emerged from deep beneath the Pacific Ocean through a rift between worlds. After much chaos and destruction the human race has banded together to build equally giant robots to go head to head with these "Kaiju". Codenamed "Jaegers", these colossal defenders are controlled by a neural link with their pair of human pilots. As the years pass humanity is winning the fight but the battle is getting harder and the Kaiju are getting bigger and more frequent. Pushed to the edge, we must try one final assault.

From here I'll try and keep this as spoiler free as I can.

First of all, the action scenes are simply spectacular in every sense. They are massive. The scope is unlike anything I've ever seen before. There was potential for the fights to lack that sense of grandeur if not handled correctly and feeling as powerful as the Megazord wrestling with a guy in a lizard suit in a cardboard city. Thankfully, this isn't the case. The Kaiju and Jaegers don't feel fake. They have a terrific feeling of weight and size. The hits are suitably boneshaking, you can really feel the impact. The effects are also staggeringly good and well realised. Most of all the battles are just pure fun. I was grinning like an idiot the whole time. Where else will you see a giant monsters rampaging past the Opera House, or a giant robot wielding a ship like a baseball bat? Every rocket punch, chest missile and sword brandishing mech brings memories flooding back from everything from Evangelion, Voltron and even Power Rangers. So damn great.

Also, this is one film that I not only enjoyed the 3D, I'd actually say not to see it in 2D. Seriously. Go to find the biggest 3D screen you can find. This film deserves nothing less than the massive screen and comfy leather seats of VMAX at Event, for example

Thankfully Pacific Rim isn't an endless robot on monster assault on the senses (Like Transformers or the last hour of Man of Steel). The action scenes are spaced apart enough to give them time to breathe. They're frequent enough to not to drag the movie out but you're also given time enough to reflect on how awesome that last fight was and anticipating the next one. It's great to have an action film where the action scenes don't all blend together in your head afterwards. I can recall every major conflict and what made them unique. They don't all feel the same and Del Toro mixes it up and keeps it fresh.

The creature design of the Kaiju is everything you'd expect from Guillermo del Toro. Those who've seen Hellboy or Pan's Labyrinth know the sick, twisted and unique creatures that can spring forth from that brilliant mind. Each creature is memorable and different from it's predecessor, showing off different abilities and battle tactics. Similarly, the Jaegars are just as well designed. Both slick and glossy with Iron Man style interfaces and industrial and old fashioned in materials and design they feel like they could actually exist in the near future. You get a real sense of these things can work. Again, they don't all feel the same. They are easily identified in battle and not a blur of metal and colours like the Transformers films. You can actually see and follow the action.

The human scenes between the action are pretty cheesy. I don't say that like it's a bad thing. Del Toro has made sure the world Pacific Rim inhabits is bright, colourful and airy. It's not brooding, dark and cynical like a lot of modern blockbusters. A lot of the film is set in in a neon lit Hong Kong. It's a bustling and packed with intricate modern details and old fashioned sensibilities. Seeing the locals build around the massive Kaiju skeletons is really great and probably accurate.

It has the fun vibe of, say, Independence Day without all the AMERICA HOORAH. Often these films with worldwide scope boil down to the US defending world for the rest of us. Thankfully this movie is an truly international effort with the countries of the world coming together to take down the Kaiju. Sure, the plot and characters can be a little cliched, but its just so much fun. We have a pair of Russians in their soviet style outdated tech, the Chinese bring some speed and sleekness to the table and a pair of Aussies that are actually central to the plot. Sure, the accents are a little off, but it's fun to see a pair of our own defend Sydney Harbour in the "Striker Eureka" Jaeger.

The human cast does what they need to. Son of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam is the lead, doing a serviceable job as the scrappy, American hero. Idris Elba is fantastic as the Jarger commander. He has some of the best lines and motivational speeches. Definitely had the proper gravitas for the role. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman provide the comic relief as a pair of bickering scientists. Ron Perlman (Del Toro's good luck charm) pops up as a black market dealer in Kaiju parts and provides some more laughs. Day gets a lot to do and has the best funny lines. Fans of It's Always Sunny won't be disappointed. Rinko Kikuchi is really enjoyable as Hunnam's co-pilot (Although the criteria for selections is a little dubious). The pair have some decent chemistry and her character is intriguing. Thankfully the expected love story side plot isn't shoehorned into an already busy story.

In closing, let me reiterate just how fun this film is. It's not perfect by any means. It's a little cheesy and slightly cliche and predictable at times. Some of the characters are plain annoying stereotypes too. It is a great winter (US Summer) blockbuster that hit all the right marks. It's giant monsters and mechs fighting tooth and nail in truly memorable fashion. Pacific Rim never tries to be something it isn't. It's a true action blockbuster that never insults your intelligence like a lot of it's ilk tends to do. Don't wait for this on Bluray. It deserves the loud, big screen and 3D big screen treatment like no other film has before. Go see it as soon as possible.


  1. As much as I loved almost everything in this movie anyway, the thing I really liked the most was that they didn't kiss at the end. It didn't need it!

    1. Yes! I was all about to judge as it looked like it was coming but then they didn't. Perfect