Movies about massive mechanical robots and towering monsters are no stranger to the Japanese cinema but is rarely scene on the American big screens (excluding foreign movie remakes and toy adaptations such as “Transformers”).
In what is probably one of the first original concepts that attempts to fuse the manga themed mechs and behemoths with the American science fiction genre, legendary horror and science fiction writer/producer Guillermo del Toro brings us the machine verses monster mash up movie “Pacific Rim.”
Does this combination successfully bridge the two polar cinema styles or does it produce a movie that is too rusty to enjoy.
When Earth is invaded by skyscraper sized monstrosities (nicknamed the Kiaju) the world sets aside their differences in order to endure the threat. Constructing colossal robotic machines (nicknamed the Jaegers) each steered by two military operative’s mankind stars to win the war against the imposing menace.
However when politics judge the Jaegers to be an ineffective way of combating the beasts due to massive civilian casualties resulting from their brawls with the Kiaju and the fact that the machines are only as good as their operators the program is given notice.
In a last ditch effort to end the war and save humanity four re-commissioned Jaegers are sent to Hong Kong to prepare a final assault against the Kiaju. Outnumbered and with time competing against them will the Jaegers prevent the apocalypse or will the invading populations rule the Earth?
In most instances a movie is only as good as its plot and uniquely acted characters. There is an exception to this rule however and that is the popcorn flick. Popcorn flicks are mindless movies that have sup-par acting and skin deep plots but excel in other aspects.
“Pacific Rim” falls under this category. The plot is not overly imaginative, the characters are card board cut outs that are either overly or under acted, and the movie is about 20 minutes too long.
Yet “Pacific Rim” still shines as a fun 3-D experience. Even with its flawed major movie components the action, the unique science behind the mechanical operation of the Jaegers, and visual aesthetics are polished to perfection.
Without spoiling major key plot devices the reason that each Jaeger requires two operators is explained really early in the film and the science behind is somewhat solid. It’s believable although it doesn’t make it a smart movie just a conceivable one.
The action and visual effects are out of this world. From the opening to closing moments of the film you can’t help but notice the scale of these massive monsters and machines. Brightly painted metal robots slamming neon blood colored monsters with spear like tails and dragon wings into the sides of massive city structures and buildings was breathtaking.
The mechanics of the Jaegers were also impressive. These weren’t fast moving machines. The punches looked like they came of monster slow speed but packed a huge wallop.
One of the gripes I did have with the Jaegers though was probably caused by the script writers. The robots were equipped with massive amounts of weaponry consisting of swords laser cannons and rotating buzz saws but they opted for the use of their fists rather than the their more destructive equipment.
The Kaiju were also impressive visual accomplishment. Although the reason several of them look similar is explained towards the end of the movie there was just enough difference between the giant beasts to recognize and enjoy.
As far as acting goes the movie doesn’t enlist many major stars. While a few well-known actors such as Idres Elba (“Thor” and “The Losers”) and Charlie Day (“Horrible Bosses”) play key side-roles the rest of the cast are generally new to the big screen. Although Ron Perlman (“Hell Boy”) makes a short but important appearance.
This leaves the audience identifying more with the side characters rather than the lead ones.
The reason this works is because the sub-stories are important to the overall plot. On the action front you got the limited acting experienced heroes and on the science front the star performers.
The lead roles are played by Rinko Kikuchi and Charlie Hunnam, both whom have only been in a hand-full of films. By no means are they bad actors but they didn’t deliver outstanding or even noticeably good performances. They play their roles fine but you don’t walk out of the movie and remember their characters. What you do remember is the Jaeger they pilot.
Arguably the Jaegers are the true stars of the show. Like I mentioned earlier it’s a popcorn flick. You’re not going to the theater to witness Heath Ledgers “Joker” performance. You’re there to see huge entities through down and lay waste to massive cities.
Overall I enjoyed “Pacific Rim.” Its fun enough to mindless enjoy when the action gets going and comically holds your attention during the side stories. With superb visual effects and plenty of action I can would give the movie 4/5 stars.