Pacific Rim is one of those rare movies that lays all of its cards on the table from the beginning. From the very first trailer, the audience knew exactly what is was in for (giant robot monster funtimes), and frankly, I haven’t anticipated a movie this much in a long, long time. Pacific Rim is straight out of the fantasies of the nerd culture currently undergoing exponential growth all over the world, and I, for one, am welcoming it with open arms.
Coming to us from Guillermo Del Toro, who is, incidentally, an enormous nerd himself, Pacific Rim combines some hugely popular concepts in their own right- giant mechs and Lovecraftian monstrosities- to form a film that was almost tailor-made to cater to our desire for some epic, boyish fantasy violence. It is evident that Del Toro is hugely passionate about this film, and it certainly comes across from the lovingly designed monsters to the gorgeous aesthetic to the enchantingly bizarre and engaging characters that populate this world. Written by both Del Toro and Travis Beacham, Pacific Rim’s story is phenomenally straight-forward, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it ins’t encumbered by over-ambition like so many other summer blockbusters.
Starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, and hugely popular Japanese film star Rinko Kikuchi, the film explores the relationship between two Jaeger (mech) pilots as they navigate a crumbling bureaucracy and come to rely on each other to win the day. The protagonists are functional, if a little bland, but the real heart of the film comes with the introduction of Charlie Day and Ron Perlman as the nutty R&D chief and a ludicrous war profiteer, respectively. These cameo appearances are more than an opportunity for some fun characters to bounce off of each other; their interactions actually are relevant to the plot, in a stunning departure from your typical blockbuster storyline.
As I mentioned before, the plot is exceptionally straightforward, and I can’t help but feel that that’s both a blessing and a curse. Del Toro has done an incredible job of creating a dense and colorful world, but I feel as though he may have missed a connection as far as expanding upon his established ideas is concerned. For example, the detail concerning Jaeger pilots becoming celebrities was a wonderful touch, as was the clip about the Kaiju becoming a kind of pop-culture phenomenon, but I wouldn’t have minded a little expansion on that front. Likewise, a vague hint was made that some people have started worshiping the Kaiju, believing that they were sent from heaven. Sadly, that particular concept wasn’t referenced again after that point, eschewing what I believe could have made for a profoundly interesting commentary on the tumultuous social climate during what is ostensibly the apocalypse.
On the other hand, though, the tight focus of the story made it possible to pack as much glorious monster vs. mech action onscreen as possible, which is always a good thing. This, in a way, harkens back to what a alluded to at the beginning of my review. With “nerd culture” on the rise, what was once considered appealing to a niche audience is now making it’s way to mainstream pop-culture. With this shift, comes the necessary “dumbing-down” so to speak, of a property. What I mean to say is that while mechs fighting monsters is now considered “cool” by all those frat boys with disposable income, it’s likely (in a general sense) that they won’t find a complex mythology all that engrossing. While I personally think that exploring some of the more subtle ideas in the Pacific Rim universe would have taken the film to the next level if handled correctly, I can certainly understand and appreciate why Del Toro chose not to.
As it stands, Pacific Rim is an fundamentally solid and hugely entertaining film that is both aesthetically engaging and well executed. I can appreciate that it’s disingenuous to fault the film for things that it didn’t do, when the things that it did accomplish were done so well that it hardly seems to matter. With Pacific Rim, Del Toro has crafted one of the best summer blockbusters of the year.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5