Giant Godzilla-like monsters rampaging through cities that are being fought by giant robots piloted by two people connected through the Drift. Pacific Rim works best as a puddle with a shallow depth, looking no further than exactly what was described in the first sentence. There is nothing wrong with this, as it is the perfect formula for what a summer blockbuster really should be.
A portal to another dimension has opened at the bottom of the ocean and it is from this portal the giant monsters emerge, known as the Kaiju. They’ve been plaguing humanity for years now with an ever-increasing frequency that has humanity at the end of their ropes. To this end the nations of the world have banded together, pooling their resources to initiate the Jaeger program. Giant mechanized robots piloted by two co-pilots with brains synched by “Drift” technology in order to handle the neural load such a suit requires. Each Jaeger is fitted with an array of unique weaponry and colorful names such as the Crimson Typhoon or Gipsy Danger.
Guillermo del Toro spends only a brief intro explaining things before jumping right into the action. This is where his thoughtful and eye-for-detail camerawork truly shines.
Instead of the jarring, shaky-cam action of say Transformers, the giant robots of Pacific Rim have a weight to them that makes it easy to follow as they fight. It was the fight scenes more than anything that had my inner child slack jawed and jumping up from my seat in excitement as I heard phrases like, “Plasma Cannon armed!” or “Elbow Rocket, Engage!”
As for the characters themselves I have to admit a fair level of disappointment. Raleigh Becket, our hero played by Charlie Hunnam, was a character with a lot of promise yet suffered from little substantial development, seemingly disregarding a traumatic moment from early in the film for the sake of narrative convenience rather than any real thoughtful reason.
The rest of the cast faired slightly better, being both more engaging and overall more interesting as their stories were doled out in only small tidbits around massive fights. Idris Elba, as Stacker, was wonderful; delivering lines that would have just been ridiculous otherwise with sense of emotion that sells each one.
Charlie Day plays a goofy scientist nicknamed “Newt” that was the perfect level of comedic balance to the otherwise serious tone of the movie. Ron Pearlman, likewise, was a bit of a missed opportunity that could only be thought of as a tantalizing treat for what could have been in his role as a black-market Kaiju organ dealer.
On a final note, I have to give major appreciation to the design team that worked on this film. Whether it was the lighting or the color palette, aesthetically Pacific Rim was simply gorgeous.
Particular mention goes to the Jaegers and their base, the beautifully dubbed Shatterdome. Each Jaeger, and the Shatterdome itself, had a visually telling history comprised of a wear and tear, stickered appeal that was reminiscent of fighter planes in World War II. Only the Kaiju, who have a fearsome vision that harkens back to an age when Gozilla was the rage and giant monsters roamed the imaginations of children everywhere, matches the Jaeger’s design.
To sum things up: If, after seeing the trailer, you thought Pacific Rim looked enjoyable, then go see this movie with expectations tempered by the knowledge that you should look no further than the fights between the Kaiju and Jaegers. If the thought of giant monsters and giant robots holds little appeal to your inner child then go anyway, this truly is a summer blockbuster done correct.