Starring: Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy), Rinko Kikuchi (The Brothers Bloom), Idris Elba (Prometheus), Charlie Day (Horrible Bosses), Burt Gorman (The Dark Knight Rises), Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Director: Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth)
Writer: Travis Beacham (Clash of the Titans) and Guillermo Del Toro
Runtime: 2 hours 12 minutes
Release Date: 12 July (US, UK)
In a world where Hollywood is mainly churning out sequels, remakes and adaptations for use as blockbuster fodder, Pacific Rim is an original idea. One that has a familiar story and takes obvious influences from many areas, but original nonetheless. It’s a risky move to put this much money into such an outlandish idea, especially when there’s little established fanbase to fall back on. Is this a gamble that pays off, or does it crash harder than a dead monster impacting on hard ground?
Pacific Rim does a great job of quickly and interestingly establishing the world and history of the film. The backstory and environment is dense with detail, but it never manages to feel overwhelming or ridiculous. This is a living, breathing world and a very fun playground with plenty of potential for expansion. The plot is formulaic for sure, with plenty of story and character clichés. But it all gels together because the world is so well-defined and characters fleshed out enough that you don’t mind. As much action as there is in Pacific Rim, there is plenty of drama and character to back it up. Of course, comparisons to Michael Bay’s Transformers films are inevitable, but Pacific Rim doesn’t fall into the same traps those films kept falling into. Our characters are likable and engaging; archetypes for sure but not so blatantly. These characters are the centre of the action instead of just people to run away from it. There’s no military mumbo-jumbo to distract you, no out-of-place comedy in the middle of the destruction. When the film gets into action gear, it is exhilarating, refreshing and, most important of all, comprehensible. Combine all that with terrific pacing that makes a two-hour plus movie feel like a breeze, and you’ve got yourself a fun time at the multiplex.
Charlie Hunnam takes centre stage as protagonist Raleigh Beckett and he does a fine job, but he is honestly the least interesting character in a sea of colourful supporting roles. Rinko Kikuchi (having finally grasped the English language after her mute role in The Brothers Bloom) is an engaging actress with a strong character to back her up. It is great to see a film with a male/female duo where the connections and conflicts doesn’t stem from romance, and Hunnam and Kikiuchi make a believable partnership when on screen together. Idris Elba is his awesome self as usual, barking orders and being all mentor-ish, and gets to make a brief badass speech that rivals President Bill Pullman from Independence Day. Del Toro regular Ron Perlman also makes a brief but brilliant appearance that is cemented by his ridiculous choice of wardrobe. But the real scene-stealers (other than the all the robots and monsters, of course) are Charlie Day and Burt Gorman as a pair of screwy scientists that are constantly at each other’s throats. They provide the comedic relief for the film, and in the hands of lesser actors it could have fallen into Skids and Mudflap territory. But Day and Gorman put their all into it and they are both excellent whether together or apart.
Guillermo Del Toro is one of the most unique and interesting directors working in the biz today, and he has finally been given enough of a budget to go all out crazy. All the promise shown in Pan’s Labyrinth, Blade II and the Hellboy movies has paid off and, whilst not as Del Toro-y as his previous works, his signature is clear on every single design. The robots and monsters (sorry, Jaegers and Kaiju) are all uniquely designed, taking clear influence from their forefathers but never feeling like rip-offs. The special effects are some of the best in recent memory, and there is a lot of it. Whilst practical effects are used when possible, the CG is so good that you often forget that these machines and creatures don’t exist. The cinematography and editing, whilst occasionally being a little too close for comfort, do a good job of letting the action flow and it is always clear what is going on. Top it all off with great sound design and a riveting score from Ramin Djawadi, and that is what you call technical excellence.
Pacific Rim is what every summer blockbuster should be: loud, ridiculous fun, but with thought and effort behind all the special effects. Following in suit of last year’s The Avengers, this is a film that takes its ridiculous premise and runs with it to great effect. Other than some occasionally janky storytelling and structure (seriously, the government thinks the best idea is to shut down the giant robots that have mostly been effective against the threat and quickly set up a flimsy, unreliable wall?), this is the kind of movie Hollywood should be making. Now we just have to hope it makes enough money for the studios to pay attention. God help us all if Grown Ups 2 manages to beat this at the US box office.
FINAL VERDICT: 9.5/10