a critiQal film review Pacific Rim (2013)

Plot: When legions of monstrous creatures, known as Kaiju, started rising from the sea, a war began that would take millions of lives and consume humanity’s resources for years on end. To combat the giant Kaiju, a special type of weapon was devised: massive robots, called Jaegers, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge. But even the Jaegers are proving nearly defenseless in the face of the relentless Kaiju. On the verge of defeat, the forces defending mankind have no choice but to turn to two unlikely heroes—a washed up former pilot (Hunnam) and an untested trainee (Kikuchi)—who are teamed to drive a legendary but seemingly obsolete Jaeger from the past. Together, they stand as mankind’s last hope against the mounting apocalypse.

748 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 44s)

When trying to decide what movie to watch this weekend, I decided to go for a double header. Now that Pacific Rim Uprising (2018) is out on digital/home video, why not re-watch Pacific Rim and follow that up with the sequel? Seemed like such a good idea, I couldn’t pass it up.

But, it’s been a few years since I’d seen Pacific Rim, and honestly, I couldn’t remember the storyline. I remembered it was about robots vs. monsters…and that’s about it. Was there a reason I couldn’t remember the rest? Or would I have a blast with the first film of this double header?

A lot of the cast is recognizable, but Pacific Rim seemed like a first big foray into films for at least two of its cast members. While people will recognize actors like Charlie Hunnam and Charlie Day (for example), they were known at the time more for their forays on the small screen (in Sons of Anarchy and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, respectively). They make the transition to the big screen decently enough in Pacific Rim. While Charlie Hunnam seems a bit wooden in one of the major roles, he still manages to bring a likability to his character that is much-needed. Charlie Day, the outspoken crazy on TV, has a more minor role than the other Charlie, but his interactions are like the zany comic relief of this relentless action pic, and he fits in even better than Hunnam.

Rinko Kikuchi (who should have been a shoo-in for the role of Major in the recent Ghost in the Shell (2017) live-action film) is also a bit wooden, at first, in Pacific Rim. Oddly enough, that seems to pair her even better with Charlie Hunnam, and the two make a pretty good team when they need to. Sure, some of their first interactions are rather stiff (as if neither is quite comfortable with their characters), but the obvious adoration Kikuchi’s Mako has for Hunnam’s Raleigh is a nice ice breaker for the viewing audience. Eventually, they get better together, even though their woodenness stays apparent when not directly involved in the crazy action.

Idris Elba, on the other hand, uses his on-screen presence to everyone’s advantage in Pacific Rim. He’s obviously the better actor, and it shows in his every movement. He really helps tie in the human portion of the film, and gives it the edge it needs to keep the viewer interested. Ron Perlman helps him out as well, even though he’s limited to much fewer sequences.

But, honestly, it’s not really the character development the viewer is coming to see when they start watching Pacific Rim. It’s the robots vs. monsters – and director Guillermo del Toro knows it. He manages to inject just enough of the human interaction to give meaning to the robot vs. monster fights, and then delivers the fights in all their glory. Glossing through a back story, he gets to the fights quicker than expected, and lets the viewer sit back and enjoy the big fight.

And those fights definitely do not disappoint. While the whole film is an obvious homage to the Godzilla films of decades past, the special effects (thankfully) have improved greatly since those films, and Guillermo provides a CGI spectacle for every fight. These fights seem as choreographed as a martial arts flick, and watching these gigantic robots and monsters clash is even more fun than watching the fights in Transformers (2007). While those were some popcorn-munching spectacles, the fights in Pacific Rim are entertaining even while being over-the-top. Sure, it’s not plausible, but the viewer can’t help but cheer as, in one scene, the robot heads toward one of the creature, dragging an aircraft carrier along, like a bat trailing on the ground…

Okay, so sure, the whole thing is a bit ridiculous. A portal opens in the ocean floor and these giant creatures surge forth (only one or two at a time, of course) to battle humans…who in turn create giant robots for their defense? Yeah, it’s ridiculous. But, under Guillermo del Toro’s direction, it’s also downright entertaining. Sure, it’s not like Pacific Rim is a 5-star film. But, as reviewer Richard Roeper said, it “plays like that ‘Rock em Sock em Robots’ game from the 1960’s”. So true. And how can you not enjoy that, even if some of the acting is a bit wooden and the plot is a bit silly?

Here’s hoping Pacific Rim Uprising (2018) is just as entertaining.

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