Pacific Rim

No, this is not a new Transformers sequel. But it does feature loud titanic smackdowns, in the kaiju tradition, between mammoth monsters and giant battle robots, in this overwrought, audacious new Sci-fi fantasy epic Pacific Rim. It’s an affectionate tribute to Japan’s epic monster action films and more recent alien invasion and superhero trends.

Can Earth’s cities survive a barrage of attacks by gargantuan plasma-spitting creatures emerging from a fissure in the ocean floor? After earth's nuclear arsenals are no longer an option during the war against the enormous enemies, an unusual group of soldiers and scientists known as The Pan-Pacific Defense Corps is called upon to develop giant military robots to destroy them. 

Inspired by del Toro’s childhood love of Japanese Kaiju films, featuring mega monsters like Godzilla, Mothra, Gamera, Rodan, Ghidorah and Mechagodzilla, the story is a loving amalgam of Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin’s Godzilla (1998) and Independence Day (1996) with elements from Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers (1997), James Cameron’s Avatar (2009), Tony Scott’s Top Gun (1986) and del Toro’s own Hellboy films.

Set in the near future, when giant robotic suits of armor, known as Jaegers, fail to stop the extra-terrestrial creatures from wreaking havoc on earth’s cities, they’re disbanded in favor of huge anti-kaiju barriers built around heavily populated cities like Hong Kong. But the walls are no defense against the powerful skyscraper sized terrors from beyond and soon the Jaeger program is brought back.

Following in the footsteps of George Lucas and James Cameron, Guillermo del Toro, who directed the Hellboy films and Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), has now created his own original epic sci-fi fantasy franchise for the 12 year old in all of us. Although it has the ambitious spectacle of Star Wars (1977) and Avatar, unlike those beloved films, Pacific Rim doesn’t feel as polished story wise, but has the potential to be a great franchise.

Resurrected with funding by a colorful black-market kingpin, Hannibal Chau, played with hilarious comic relish by Ron Pearlman (Hellboy himself), the new Pan-Pacific Defense program of hotshot Jaeger pilots now has a more steampunkish retro riveted, heavy metal look with an international variety of unique armored robot defenders. 

Visually, we get a chaotic visceral mix of heroic battle scenes between a variety of unnatural colossal creatures and heavily armored robots, the Jaeger pilots manipulating the robots from inside its head, and the military base of strategists monitoring the battle from the ground. As in Star Wars, instead of The Force, here we get The Drift; a kind of neural connection between the two Jaeger pilots when operating their robotic suit.

The movie is full of derivative characters such as the ragtag group of Jaeger pilots who are more like macho WWE wrestlers, as it takes physical and mental stamina to operate the robots, and a comic duo of bickering scientists who seem to be modeled after R2-D2 and C-3PO. Some of the better performances come from Idris Elba, who was recently seen in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus (2012), and the Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi, who is best known to western audiences for her breakout role in Babel (2006).

This is purely a popcorn film that will appeal to young fan boys and it’s definitely fun to watch the mega mayhem on the big screen. The special effects by Lucasfilm’s ILM are breathtakingly spectacular. If there was ever a film that takes full advantage of the IMAX and 3D format, this is it.

Pacific Rim is dedicated to the late stop-motion effects legend Ray Harryhausen and IshirĂ´ Honda, the Japanese director of many of the original Godzilla films.

Overall it’s a fun blend of sci-fi, action and creature feature disaster tropes, which is what Guillermo del Toro is so good at and where his passion lies. 



Cassandra Schmigotzki said...

Pacific Rim sounds like an interesting movie. We'll have to check it out.

Anonymous said...

Nice review JP. I wish there was more to the characters and the script, but at least the fighting and action was good. At least.

JP said...

Yes, I totally agree with you Dan. I'm hoping that the story and characters will improve with the sequels.

Subhorup Dasgupta said...

I saw this in IMAX 3D at the behest of a friend. Haven't stopped wondering why.