To say that I’m a Guillermo fan would be an understatement. From the hauntingly macabre Pan’s Labyrinth to the twisted fun of Hellboy, his love of the unusual is a perfect marriage with his visual flair and authentic passion for the projects that he tackles. Like Whedon, he has become something of a geek god, and many find it surprising that he has never had a gigantic film at the box office … which is something that I have a suspicion Pacific Rim might just change as it is exactly that, in more ways than one.
I loved Pacific Rim…no, I really loved Pacific Rim. Since Thursday I’ve been struggling with exactly I want to say in this review, as I warned Kervyn post-film that I will most likely end up going on an epic fanboy rant, so I promise to try and tone it down. What I can easily state, before saying anything about this film, is that you should do yourself a favour and go see it. Pacific Rim is one of the few big films this season that isn’t a sequel or a pre-existing franchise and that, regardless of how good the film is, should already be enough to get your ass in a cinema seat. For those of you still a bit sceptical, let me at least tell you this: Pacific Rim is good, and definitely worth the price of admission.
“Good” really doesn’t work for me as an adjective with regards to Pacific Rim though, and let me tell you why. This is by far cry not a perfect film, and its flaws are the same that troubles many other feature films – the script. You definitely have a couple of continuation or logic flaws, similar to the ones that something like Man of Steel or The Avengers struggled with, but Pacific Rim has a lot more in common with The Avengers than Man of Steel for one, big reason: A clear understanding of its own nature. The Avengers never bothered itself with trying to be overly artistic, or “critically” good – something that one might arguably say Man of Steel tried to do a bit more. Pacific Rim knows exactly what it is – a film about big robots punching big monsters in the face. We are not expecting Shawkshank Redemption, we are expecting a film to make us feel like we are kids again, walking into Independence Day for the first time. This is a film that will make you say “Wow!” out loud and put a grin on your face wide enough to make the Cheshire Cat jealous.
The premise of Pacific Rim is simple. A rift between us and another world has opened up at the bottom of the Pacific Rim, and waves of gigantic monsters called ‘kaiju’ have been spewing forth, leaving a wake of destruction on the planet. Nations are forced to work together to build gigantic robots called Jaegers in an attempt to fight back, and this leads us to one of the film’s other important aspects. Piloting a Jaeger requires a mind meld with said Jaeger, but it is soon discovered that this is too taxing for a sole person and it needs to be done as a duo, which cleverly allows the film to focus on the film’s relationships between certain characters, without it feeling like an afterthought as in many films. Pacific Rim also gives the audience credit early on – we aren’t idiots. We can very quickly fill in blanks with regards to world building and we don’t need to have every aspect of a person’s life detailed for us to understand a film. We are given a history of the Kaiju war, we meet the characters and off we go! The majority of the film is set in Hong Kong, which is an extremely refreshing change from always having to pretend that the United States is the only country on the planet. It also sets a stunning backdrop to one of the most beautifully colourful films I’ve seen in a long time.
We have been lucky this year with regards to 3D. I hate that I keep having to write positive things about it, but the last three films I’ve seen in 3D all handled it pretty well and of those, Pacific Rim puts it to the best use. Rather than using it as a gimmick, it embraces it for dramatic effect and once again, I would recommend seeing this film in a good quality 3D cinema than a lesser-quality 2D one. This is a Del Toro film through and through and while it is quite unlike and of the other films he’s done before, his attention to detail and love of what he does is quite evident when it comes to set and monster designs. Most of the film looks like it jumped right from the imagination of an anime artist and Del Toro makes sure that we are believing what we are seeing. This is clearly a man that loves his monsters and for the first time has the resources to bring them to life in their full glory.
I enjoyed the casting in the film as well. While Pacific Rim doesn’t have any ‘big name’ stars in it, it does well with the cast it has been given. What about Idris Elba, you may ask? To be fair, if you had to ask a normal non-film buff who Channing Tatum was they would be able to tell you, but more often than not they will have no idea who Idris Elba is and such is the injustice of modern pop culture. Mr. Elba is the rock at the center of this film and while many of the other actors aren’t much more than cultural caricatures, he manages to hold it all together with a solid performance and a speech that would make Bill Pullman proud. Charlie Day, king of the rats, delivers well as the film’s comedy relief and plays well off Ron Perlman’s extended cameo as Kaiju parts black market dealer Hannibal Chow. If I don’t see a rapper wearing some “Chow” shoes in the near future, I’d be surprised. Also, very refreshingly, someone had the the bright idea not to cram a cringe-worthy love story into the film, while still managing to hint at it in a much more endearing fashion. Charlie Hunnam and the beautiful Rinko Kikuchi play well off each other as the film’s leads, and while none of the performances are particularly Oscar-worthy it is important to remember what I mentioned earlier – this is a film about gigantic monsters being punched in the face by giant robots.
This is what makes this film so difficult to rate, though. Some films might get criticised for not having the most intricate of plots but I feel that Pacific Rim needs to be praised for its need to not feel pressured by what other films are doing. It isn’t overly bulky, it is a a simple concept and it never tries to over-complicate what the audience are watching it for – the sheer thrill and wonderment of seeing something brand new and exciting, and delivering on its promise: To be a HELL of a good time. How, then, do I rate the film? Do I penalize it for its script flaws or not delivering Oscar-worthy acting performances? Surely, a film needs to be judged by its own merits and Pacific Rim is a cartoon of a film, in the best possible way. This might also be its downfall as it limits its audience to Del Toro, action, sci-fi and perhaps anime fans.
Pacific Rim is an important film. It is a reminder that now and then, as with Independence Day or The Avengers, Hollywood can deliver something that doesn’t have to be disappointing. In a time where film originality is sorely lacking, hopefully this film’s success can pave the way for others. For this, it deserves every single star of its rating. If I could be watching this film again right now, I would be.
Last Updated: July 29, 2013