By Gary Murray
Starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba and Rinko Kikuchi
Written by Guillermo del Toro and Travis Beacham
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Running time 131 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating FULL PRICE
I love cheesy movies. Yes, I can appreciate and respect those works of cinematic art that are lauded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences but I also love when a group of film makers just want to makes something silly and fun. Pacific Rim is a film that falls into that category.
The film is basically Monsters VS Robots. Through opening exposition, we find out that aliens have created a fissure under the Pacific Ocean. They can send giant monsters (called Kaijus) through the crack and those behemoths attack the mainland. After a few mistakes, the governments of the world decide that it takes a giant good guy to destroy a giant bad guy. The governments build a series of giant robots (called Jaegers) to fight against these monsters. The robots are so complicated that it takes two pilots to run these massive metallic beasts and the pilots must be synced to one another.
Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) is one of those pilots. He and his brother run one of the robots. During the opening battle a tragedy happens and Raleigh must defeat the beast by himself. We flash-forward a few years and much of the world has changed. The governments have decided that fighting the beasts is not cost effective and building a wall is a much saner way to keep humanity safe. The Jaeger program has been scraped.
After the city walls fail, the robots are called back. Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) is the military man with a plan. He has only four machines left and needs a last set of pilots. They are going to seal the fissure and save humanity.
Raleigh has been a welder for a few years, staying far away from the war. He is a mentally wounded individual who has problems dealing with the aftermath of his last fight. He is drafted into service.
Stacker has an aide Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi). She is a trained but inexperienced pilot. She wants to get inside the controls of one of those beasts and prove her meddle. She has a relationship with Stacker. There are also some mental issues in her past. She and Raleigh have instant sparks.
That is the set-up but the film is a series of epic battles along the lines of King Kong VS Godzilla or any of the Ultra Man or Johnny Sokko episodes that appeared on television. This film is one of those ‘check your brain at the door’ and enjoy the spectacle type of flicks. To put it in old Disney terms, it is definitely an “E” ticket ride.
The special effects in this film are not to be believed. There are battles that show the skill of the computer animation crew to a degree that makes just about every film of 2013 look like an amateur production. They are so amazing that the audience wanted more of them. It is destruction on a Toho Studios level but for a modern audience.
Rinko Kikuchi is an Academy Award nominated actress (Babel). In this role, she takes what could have been a thankless role and turned it into a pathos inducing performance. She has these bright sparking eyes that are tinged with a degree of sadness. Idris Elba has been around for a number of years and has played a wide variety of military style characters. Here he gives the reading a humanity seldom seen in these types of motion pictures.
In the secondary cast, two individuals stand-out. The always great Ron Pearlman plays a dealer of monster flesh. He gives an over the top reading that injects the biggest humor to the piece. Charlie Day plays Dr. Newton Geiszler, a Kaiju obsessed scientist who believes that there is something more to these monsters than just mindless killing machines. He is consumed with studying them and understanding how their brains function.
The film is directed and written by Guillermo del Toro. He’s the guy who has done such diverse works as Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy. Here he mixed the ideas of simple pop culture with some of the more esoteric aspects of art house cinema. It is hard to mesh those two different styles but del Toro does it with subtlety. Consider it a thinking man’s action flick.
Pacific Rim is a wonderful little spectacle film that is definitely worth seeing on the big screen and in 3D. It is designed to be an emersion experience and needs to be experienced the way it was designed. Look at it as a major remake of the old film The Terror of Mecha Godzilla.