I didn’t like Pacific Rim much, but that could have been my fault for thinking too much about a movie that’s about giant monsters vs. giant robots. Still, despite its numerous flaws, there’s a lot to admire in Guillermo del Toro’s latest big screen epic.
Through a series of flashbacks, we’re told in the not too distant future, a portal in the Earth’s core is being used as a gateway for monstrous creatures called Kaiju. The skyscraper-sized beasts level and destroy anything in their paths Godzilla-style until the world leaders create giant beasts of their own —robots dubbed Jaegers. Too powerful for any one human brain to control, Jaegers require two pilots to synch their minds to become the ultimate Kaiju killers.
As the years go on, the Kaiju adapt their fighting techniques and resistance to Jaeger technology, leading to mangled Jaegers and psychologically-scarred pilots like Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam).
Even in today’s standards we get a new iPhone operating system every six months, but the Jaegers can’t get upgraded to match the Kaiju threat? And since the experts know where they’re coming from, why not toss a few mines or nukes anytime a Kaiju emerges from the portal? Even more laughable is the world leaders’ decision to abandon the costly Jaeger program in favor of building massive walls to keep the monsters out. Yeah, that should work out just fine. Only a small Jaeger resistance effort, led by Stacker (a commanding Idris Elba) has any hope of turning the tide and winning the war before humanity becomes extinct.
That’s a wonderfully inspired premise, so it’s immensely disappointing that del Toro and co-screenwriter Travis Beacham (Clash of the Titans) stuck to such cliché storytelling for the non-action scenes. And at 131 minutes, that’s a big commitment for such little reward. The film definitely needed a less by-the-numbers storytelling approach.
The second Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) indicates that she’d be the best partner with Raleigh, there’s no doubt they’ll be synching up despite Stacker’s resistance or that the bickering Kaiju researchers Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) are going to play a pivotal role in stopping them.
Day’s usual manic, fast talking shtick is a bad fit for the film and gives it that same forced obnoxious humor found in Michael Bay’s Transformers movies. The rest of the cast (including the obligatory fun Ron Perlman cameo) helps prop the predictable story along just fine and Hunnam really comes across like an on the rise movie star.
You could ignore the story deficiencies if the action delivered, but too frequently the battles are held in dark, rainy settings so it’s hard to make out exactly what’s happening. There’s clearly some cool stuff happening, but it’d be even cooler to actually see it.
Del Toro puts you right in the action and lets the viewer feel insignificant to the clash of titans around them in a way that Bay never was able to accomplish with his Transformers films, which has mixed results. Like the Bayformers, the Jaegers are too dark and washed out so they blend too easily in the background and don’t contrast enough with the Kaiju.
Strangely, there’s a large disconnect between the actors and CGI effects, but it seems more a result of del Toro trying to squeeze every penny out of the film’s reported $180 million budget than a lackluster effort.
Don’t bother checking it out in anything but the 3D IMAX presentation. Del Toro maximizes the experience with a lot of quality depth to bring you right into the action and it’s really the only way to fully take the film in.
If you smile at the thought of giant robots fighting giant monsters, del Toro has crafted a cinematic love letter specifically with you in mind. Those not immediately sold on the premise should sit this installment of Rock’Em Sock’Em robots out.
Rating: 4.5 out of 10
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