The mark of a great movie is the desire to see it again right after it’s over. I want to see Pacific Rim again and again and again. Everything that Transformers did wrong Pacific Rim does right. It is a new age monster movie as only Guillermo del Toro can bring us and it is a visual treat that is so splendidly done that it more than makes up for a lackluster plot or flat dialogue. The film is straightforward with its narrative and can be summed up by saying robots versus sea monsters.
The greatest accomplishment of del Toro is his ability to bring his visions to the screen fully formed. The robots (Jaegers) look and feel real world functional. The sea monsters (Kaiju) seem like a distinct race. Even if they are an homage to the old rubber monster suit movies these monsters give the distinct impression that they have a society of their own. There are hints of their intelligence throughout the film and the glimpses we get of their interaction make the audience aware that there is more than wanton destruction as an endgame.
Del Toro is able to slide pure sci-fi elements into the movie and make them feel completely natural. I have always felt that the best sci-fi films are the ones that treat their world as if the characters actually live there. People in the real world don’t usually explain things to each other that are commonplace. Such is as it should be when an idea that is fantastical to us wouldn’t be to the characters. Pacific Rim exemplifies this by things like a “neural handshake” that allows the minds of two people to be linked. While the effects of this process may be discussed there is no focus on the process itself. Such exposition bogs down the story and it is usually a hindrance. This film wonderfully treats its world as natural and gives the audience credit for following along.
The basic plot is that the Kaiju have slowly made their presence known to the world by way of a rift under the ocean. This portal allows them to travel into the world and wreak havoc. As would likely be the case, a gigantic sea monster the size of a city does incredible amounts of damage and takes massive amounts of firepower and ingenuity to defeat. Humans develop a robot that is several skyscrapers tall and is controlled from within by two pilots. The Jaegers work beautifully for awhile until the Kaiju adapt. The war has begun. We then follow the pilots of the last remaining Jaegers in their attempt to save humanity once and for all.
The cast is filled with relative unknowns for the summer blockbuster crowd. Idris Elba leads as the military man in charge. The hotshot pilot is played by Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) and the lead scientist is played by Charlie Day (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). There is also a small role for del Toro favorite Ron Perlman. That is about all the cast that I recognized. That is not at all to say that the rest of the cast is ineffective in any way. Quite the opposite in fact.
Giant battle scenes encompass a large majority of this film. Unlike Transformers however, Pacific Rim gives these battles weight and a sense of realism. Wisely, del Toro sets most of the action just off the coast. The ocean backdrop gives the space needed for the action to breathe and lets the Jaegers and Kaiju experience a full range of motion. This also allows for the extra benefit of making the landfall scenes more gigantic in scope. It is only when we are given buildings and other such objects from our world that we truly come to understand the size of these creatures. There is such an epic sense of grandiosity to this film and del Toro and his effects crew do a masterful job of making every shot of wonder exist in a way that feels real. Filmmakers responsible for things such as Oz the Great and Powerful should look no further than this film for an example of how to integrate cgi. The Kaiju look like they actually take up space in the world that they exist in. They are not merely graphics laid on top of a backdrop of our world. These are computer graphics done as well as I’ve ever seen them done.
Guillermo del Toro makes movies I love. I have a fanboy crush on his films. Pacific Rim is now at the top of that list. This is the kind of summer blockbuster spectacle I want to see. I loved every frame of this film and I can’t wait to see it again.