Pacific Rim is set in earth’s future. The world has been fighting giant monsters from a deep crevasse in the Pacific Ocean with their own manufactured monsters. This sets the scene for some giant battles with an epicness that is matched by the on-screen characters being given an intimacy that is not hinted at in the movies trailers.
Guillermo Del Toro, who brought us: Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, and Blade II to name but three of the brilliant man’s offerings as a director; wrote and directed the film and he’s brought something to the screen that impresses and entertains. While not everyone will love the film, they can at least appreciate the ability of this talented man to make a film that feels like Transformers without wheels or Optimus Prime.
We are introduced to a future where the Kaiju first make their presence known to mankind after having forced their way into our world from a fissure in the ocean floor. These huge monsters start attacking the world and it takes the human population a long time to learn how to combat these monsters effectively.
The human race unites in battle against the Kaiju and build their own giant “monster killers” in the guise of bipedal robots called Jaegers, that are powered by two troopers/pilots who have “melded” their minds as one. Only troopers who can successfully work in this “united” state can operate the robots.
Just as mankind seems to be on the brink of retiring the Jaegers, more Kaiju appear, and they are bigger, smarter and different from the monsters fought in the past, the fate of mankind depends on the last of the Jaegers and the dwindling number of pilots who operate them.
Del Toro does a magnificent job of making these “giants” seem real, the aura of colossal size and scope seems to be almost effortless. The camera never stays at a distance during the fights between Jaeger and Kaiju, it moves in close and zooms out when needed. The focus of the film isn’t just on the giant battles in the film, it also follows the human characters in a surprisingly intimate fashion.
While the protagonists in the film are not too deep, they aren’t just two dimensional cardboard cut-outs either. The actors have been given a little freedom to give their admittedly stereotypical roles a bit of believability. The cast all do a brilliant job of convincing us that they really are working hard to save mankind.
Idris Elba is the futuristic Winston Churchill in this “world-war” and when he isn’t thrilling the audience with his rousing speeches, he’s proving that being at the top isn’t easy or enjoyable. Of course the main difference between Alba’s Stacker Pentecost and Churchill, is that Pentecost is a fighter, a pilot who has risen to the top of his chain and Churchill was a good leader.
Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy), Charlie Day (Monsters University), Rinko Kikuchi (The Brothers Bloom), and Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy) all bring a lot to the table in the acting stakes and their performances combined with Del Toro’s direction make the film move at a good pace.
It has to be said that despite the film feeling a little like Transformers without the morphing, the overall look of the film is impressive. The pilots really look like they are powering the man-made giants and their movement inside the head of the robot has that slight delay that one would expect if this were all real.
Watching Pacific Rim in IMAX is a must. The 3D/IMAX experience enhances the feeling of hugeness that the film is striving for and the use of James Cameron’s 3D filming technique works brilliantly to make it seem like you are right in the middle of the action on screen.
While the overall plot isn’t a work of Shakespeare, it doesn’t need to be for the film to be entertaining and you will be sitting on the edge of your seat throughout the film. The film also boasts a splendid mix of humour amid its pathos. How could it not have amusing moments when it boasts the presence of Charlie Day?
So far this summer there have not been many films that really fall into the “blockbuster” category with too many misses from major studios that have failed to really capture the movie going public’s imagination. Pacific Rim offers a giant ride of Godzilla-like proportions and at the same time offers a surprising intimacy for the human characters in the film. This is a real five out of five stars, not because it is perfect, but because it is perfectly entertaining. This is the first film of the summer that could really be labeled a blockbuster.
By Michael Smith