If you’ve clicked through to this review from the homepage, or scrolled to the bottom to see the star rating before even starting this sentence you will see that it only scores a fairly decent 3.5 (also those who didn’t do either now know the review conclusion, so sorry).
But in a very odd and seemingly contradictory sense I have to start by saying this is a must see movie in cinemas. If it were judged on its action and world building alone it would most definitely warrant a 5 star report. Thus it is the perfect film for a 9 – 15 year old. Sadly I am no longer in this age bracket and although I can get on board with blockbuster movies that are cheesy, goofy or even cliche, I cannot forgive the childlike approach to character shaping and exposition that is so prevalent in Pacific Rim.
As a quick story summary, Pacific Rim is set in a future which sees Earth under attack by giant monsters (Kaiju) that travel from another world via a wormhole rift in the titular oceanic bed. In response to these attacks some of Earth’s bravest and brightest have created giant mechs (Jaegers) which are piloted by two people, who are neurally linked. The Jaeger’s have been fighting the monsters for years already as we start the film, and they are losing. So what can be done to stop the Kaiju once and for all? The answer is lots more huge scale fighting.
The characters are very much painted by numbers. In fact if Family Fortunes asked 100 people to name as many stock action film characters as possible they would most definitely list Pacific Rim’s roster. Tortured hero, angry leader with a secret heart of gold, hero’s rival who turns out to be hero’s best friend, rookie who just needs one shot to prove herself, eccentric scientists providing comic relief; these are all present and correct. Knowing Guillermo Del Toro’s meticulous approach to his visions I can only assume this was entirely purposeful. And knowing that the man himself wanted to create a film specifically for a younger audience I can appreciate that for many youngsters they will be seeing these kinds of characters for the first time. It just feels a little tired to me.
Del Toro and screenwriter Travis Beacham have obviously reveled in the creation of the Pacific Rim world. You can see how much fun they had by looking at character names alone. Human’s like Stacker Pentecost, Hannibal Chau and Hercules Hanson seem plucked straight from anime, and Jaeger names such as Crimson Typhoon, Gipsy Danger and Striker Eureka sound like the writers just gave a group of 10 year old kids a bucket of sugar each and asked them to shout out the coolest sounding words they could think of.
“Haven’t you heard? It’s the end of the world. Where would you rather die? Here, or in a Jaeger?”
Importantly (and unsurprisingly with Del Toro at the helm) the world looks and feels very authentic. It feels lived in and real, which means you never question the validity of what you are seeing. It may go over the top at times but it always justifies itself with a visual logic. This is a quality that has always elevated Del Toro’s work over other filmmakers; he never shows his worlds as shiny and new, they always feel used and always look better because of it.
So what of the action? At the end of the day the simple premise of giant mechs fighting giant monsters is what will draw most audiences to the film, and it is also what they will all be talking about afterwards. If you think that you’ve seen it all before in Transformers think again. This is a very different kind of fight choreography. The city brawls feel so enormous and heavy. You get a genuine sense of what it would be like if 300 foot tall behemoths went at each other in the middle of Hong Kong, Sydney or San Fancisco. Great compliments must also go to the sound design department here, whose innovation and incredible volume propels the mega showdowns to an even greater level.
The level of imagination and creativity on display is enormous. The action is on the largest scale of anything you will see this, or any year. The creature designs, choreography and effects are incredible. It’s just a wee bit of a shame that the characters and dialogue couldn’t match up to the heady heights of a nuclear powered Jaeger. But please go and see it in the cinema, if only for two reasons; one because the action will take your breath away, and two because it will show the movie studios that we want more original and exciting films made, instead of one remake and sequel after another.