Director: Guillermo del Toro; Cast: Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Diego Klattenhoff, Charlie Day, Ron Pearlman, Burn Gorman, Max Martini; Running time: 132 minutes
After a portal between dimensions opened deep beneath the Pacific ocean and colossal monsters known as Kaijus began tearing the world’s cities apart, the Jaegar programme was initiated. Humans built massive robots, duel-piloted through shared memories, to battle the monsters. Yet as victory begins to slide towards the Kaijus, the Jaegars make one final stance with the help of former pilot Raleigh (Hunnam).
One word: MASSIVE. That’s what Pacific Rim is. Massive. Huge. Colossal. We pretty much open with a massive monster fighting a massive robot in the middle of the Pacific, and things only go up from there, as impossible as that sounds. Every explosion gets louder, ever line gets sillier, every fight gets bigger – quite literally; the monsters only grow bigger and bigger as new ones enter the world. But what prevents Pacific Rim from becoming just a dumb, lumbering Transformers is its attention to detail and the love and care behind every single scene. The character’s are explored rather than leered at, the sets are fine-tuned to the smallest details, the action sequences are deftly handled so as to be huge and gripping, but at the same time visibly satisfying and non headache-inducing. This is a film made by someone who genuinely cares about what he’s doing. By someone who adores cinema, the art of storytelling, and above all, monsters.
Yet Pacific Rim is obsessed with pretending it’s worse than it is. The script spends so much time precariously strolling the line between what can be perceived as silly, flimsy fun, or genuinely bad writing. The dialogue is, on several occasions, incredibly clichéd (often made worse by Chalie Hunnam’s dreadful expressions – sorry Sons Of Anarchy fans, but that sequence before he fights in the hallway is cringe-inducing), and it seems to be doing itself no favours. Yet instead of sighing, rolling your eyes and thinking: “God this is stupid”, you instead don a massive smile, your eyes gleam, and think: “Aaah! That was such a naff line but that’s what makes it so awesome!”. Or something like that. There’s a sense that del Toro was trying to make it sound a bit stupid, to sort of play on the generic tropes of the genre in order to show people that yes, this is the kind of movie it is, but this is an example of how well it can be done. Of how much fun it can be.
What’s most impressive about the film is the weight of the special effects, and subsequently the credibility of the Jaegers and Kaijus. We really believe in the threat posed. They don’t just look like huge, shiny CGI creations splashing through a bit of water. When a Jaeger smashes a Kaiju we feel the tremor. When a Kaiju roars it ripples through us. During the fight sequences we get lost, wrapped up in them, as if we’re sitting atop of one of the buildings watching it first-hand. It’s a beautiful thing when compared to, say, the final hour of Transformers 3 which is just a smashy, smashy, bing, bang, boom soulless, boring slog where we don’t care about any of the characters’ fates or motives, or believe for a single frame that the robots could be ‘real’.
This is not del Toro’s finest work by any means, but it’s a whole massive load of fun. You’ll laugh, you’ll be wowed, you’ll gasp, you’ll grin; you’ll have a great time.