By: Bryan Montgomery
Rating: 7 out of 10
Ignore the previews. Ignore the commercials. Disregard the advertising, print collateral, or anything else you have heard about Pacific Rim. Your degree of satisfaction with the film will be entire contingent upon one thing; do you want to see big robots fight bigger monsters? If the answer is yes, Pacific Rim is a strong entry into the action genre by Guillmero Del Toro, supplanted by gorgeous visuals and breathtaking action.
In the mid-21st century, humanity faces a new, perilous threat, alien creatures known as the Kaiju that have appeared from the ocean floor. In order to combat the threat, humanity banded together and created the Jaeger program, creating massive robots with weapons to combat the growing threat. When the Kaiju turn the tide of the war after an early salvo by the Jaegers, Raleigh Becket, a former pilot haunted by his last time inside the drift, which is a hive mind protocol linking two pilots to pilot the Jaegers, must set foot back inside of a legendary Jaeger to help in humanity’s last-ditch effort to stop the Kaiju.
As a big-budget summer film, Pacific Rim had to deliver on the visuals, which the movie does in droves. Del Toro is a visionary filmmaker with a taste for exotic visuals bursting with color, and Pacific Rim does not disappoint. Although a high amount of the action for some reason takes place during adverse conditions such as rain and thunderstorms, there is always a high degree of clarity, key for when massive robots are duking it out with aliens.
Fortunately, Del Toro does not take the path of the Transformers films, giving you interpretation of the sale of the battle without drowning out the picture with over-sized robots. The Kaiju are dominating creatures, a combination of the monster from Cloverfield and Godzilla with some truly bad ass abilities. The movie establishes early on that there is a ranking mechanism for these monsters; seeing the increasing size and scale of the Kaiju as the film goes on keeps the monsters fresh, even after the Jaegers start to drop the beasts one by one. Things get even more entertaining when the Kaiju start to demonstrate new abilities and powers, especially becoming prevalent during the climactic battles of the film.
Most of the primary cast does their best to keep the film afloat, as Charlie Hunnam does a serviceable job as the leading character; the tragedy that befalls him in the first fight during the movie sticks with him throughout the rest of the plot and Hunnam carries it well as the stakes rise. However, the man who dominates the movie, as well as all of the pre-release media, is Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost. Pentecost, one of the first Jaeger drivers, has a great deal of mystery to him but Elba commands the role. Inheriting the role as the leader of the Jaeger resistance, Elba serves as the emotional center of the film and the primary dictator of any motivational speech used throughout the film. A presence such as Elba helps the film gain its footing as the plot moves on, as a film on such an epic scale.
However, for every Idris Elba, there is a Charlie Day. Day, playing in a stereotypical science geek role, really drags down the proceedings of the film, especially when he becomes a critical aspect of the plot and a proverbial game-changer in the fight against the Kaiju. The same can be said for Ron Pearlman, who is pretty much committed by this point to appear in every Del Toro movie. Although his role is important and has a place within the canon of the film, it’s hard not to feel like the move was made simply for fan service, which simply seems out of place.
Pacific Rim is gorgeous, but it is also formulaic. There is not much in this film that has not been seen before, and the by-the-numbers plot doesn’t do much to help Pacific Rim as it slogs towards its conclusion. The final two fights between the Jaegers and the Kaiju are awesome to watch but hold no surprises, just a great deal of been there, done that.
As a summer flick, Pacific Rim delivers in pure popcorn fare, mixing awesome visuals with a robots vs. aliens plot that essentially defines summer. However, as a franchise kick-starter, Pacific Rim falls short. A formulaic action shot that squanders potential, Pacific Rim is a great film to see just to enjoy what Del Toro was able to do visually, but is just another standard action sci-fi flick that fails to reach the elite status coveted by so many directors.