Get out your giant robots and giant monsters, we're reviewing Pacific Rim!
An inter-dimensional rift has opened at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, and giant monsters called Kaiju have emerged to wreak havoc on humanity! The only thing standing between humanity and extinction is the Jaeger program: people from around the world that pilot giant robots. But now the Jaeger program is being shut down! Can what's left of the Jaegers make one last stand against the gargantuan beasts?
You guys? You guys. You guys! Giant robots VS giant monsters. C’mon, guys. Pacific Rim is amazing. Why are you not seeing it already?!
Pacific Rim is everything you want in a giant-monster summer blockbuster, and more. It amazes me that this film got made and that it's so good. Not just in the sense that it’s incredibly cathartic to see giant robots smacking giant monsters around (and boy, is it ever), but this is an extremely well-made movie. A lesser director would have looked at the premise and done the bare minimum to put a movie together, thinking the explosions and punches would sell themselves. They probably would have, but someone took the time and energy and really thought out how to make a good movie.
Every frame of Pacific Rim is beautiful. The cinematography is gorgeous, the color design, the pacing, the action choreography… all beautiful. This is why something like Michael Bay's Transformers makes me so mad. He throws explosions at the screen and doesn't even try. Here, every shot is worth watching. They are actually well-thought-out, meaningful fights. The designs of the robots and Kaiju are masterful. The world feels fully realized. There's a sense of scale (working incredibly well with the 3D) that makes me think this is what people who watched the 1933 King Kong or the 1954 Godzilla must have felt the first time they saw it. The awe they felt as they asked, "How did they get gods to walk the earth and then punch each other in the face?!"
Something you may be surprised about is how family-friendly and light-hearted Pacific Rim is. If your kids can watch Godzilla, they can watch this. Sure people die, cities get decimated, monsters explode, but it feels like watching a live-action cartoon. This reminds me a lot of the Wachoskis' Speed Racer, which also had amazing graphics and a light-hearted tone. You'd think a movie as dark-looking (especially from the trailers) would be more serious and moody, but there's so much fun in every shot. It especially shows between monster battles with the borderline slap-stick of Charlie Day and Ron Pearlman. This is how you make an intense and realistic movie without going too dark, a sentiment I wish a certain superhero movie shared COUGH COUGH MAN OF STEEL COUGH.
It's crazy how diverse this cast is, and they're all pretty fun in their roles. There are pilots from all over the world, and it shows. Unfortunately, a lot of those pilots aren't shown or heard much. Most of the heavy lifting falls to Charlie Hunnam's Becket, the Austrian team, and Idris Elba (who's fantastic. More Idris Elba, please). But then there's Charlie's partner, Mako, played by Rinko Kikuchi, who I really, really wanted to like and wanted more of her character, but she is just a mess of stereotypes. I'm honestly surprised she didn't show up in a Japanese schoolgirl uniform. Thankfully, we didn't get a forced romantic subplot or damsel-in-distress trope, which is… something? Progress! Anyways, Charlie Day, Idris Elba and Ron Pearlman steal the show.
The story is simple, but it's simple in a way I like. No convoluted plot threads, no dumb twists, no forced clichés or bad character tropes, just “monsters are bad, and we need to stop them.” And oh man, do they ever! It’s just tons and tons of robot punching and it is fun as hell! All the Kaiju designs are fun and interesting, as well as the robot designs, harkening back to tons of classic anime like Big O, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gundam, and Godzilla. I can't wait for the sequel and the toys to come out. The soundtrack is as epic as the film, and I really want Daft Punk to remix the whole thing.
It’s been long enough that we now know that Grown-Ups 2 just barely beat it in the opening weekend, and that gives me a huge gaping Kaiju sad. It saddens me that the mainstream audience prefers Michael Bay's transformers to this, even though THIS IS the better film. It annoys me that it might have done better if there were more Americans, more boobs, and more crappy American story tropes. Don't let this turn into the next Speed Racer or Scott Pilgrim! Go see it in theaters while you can! In 3D! It's well worth it.
THE GOOD: GIANT ROBOTS VS GIANT MONSTERS DAMMIT, Simple story, diverse cast, great cinematography, great soundtrack, great fight scenes, funny and light hearted, did I mention giant robots?
THE BAD: Not enough of the rest of the cast, Mako could have been better
THE VERDICT: $$$$$ Go see it! Multiple times! In 3D! Bring the kids! If you like giant robots and giant monsters and those things punching each other, you will not be disappointed.
MOVIES LIKE IT: Godzilla, Speed Racer, Avengers, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Independence Day, Transformers, Gundam
ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: That one scene where that giant robot punches the giant monster in the face. OH WAIT.