Guillermo del Toro is back in the director’s chair for the highly anticipated PACIFIC RIM, his love letter to Japanese Monster Cinema. This visually stunning director made a name for himself with the surreal, and intricate creature design. It seems natural that he would co-write a film dealing with giant alien monsters, battling man made giant robots. The interesting aspect here is, PACIFIC RIM is an original film, it is not an adaptation, it is not a remake, reboot, sequel, or prequel to anything. Big blockbusters being wholly original are few and far between, with del Toro at the helm you can rest assured this delivers the goods. This could very well be one of the best films of the Blockbuster season, it is fun, filled with great characters, visually fantastic and the creature designs all round are top notch.
The story at hand is set in the not too distant future where a rift in the pacific has opened up and giant creatures referred to as ‘Kaiju’ begin to come out. They start just one at a time, over a period of time, with destruction their only mission. Cities are destroyed, and there isn’t much hope for mankind, that ist until giant robots referred to as ‘Jaegers’ are made. The Earth seems to stand a chance, until the Kaiju attacks become more frequent, and much bigger. It is up to former pilot of a Jaeger, Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam), to team up with wannabe pilot Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) to bring his former Jaeger back to combat the Kaiju and end this war once and for all.
Part of what is really intriguing here is the Jaegers, they work with two pilots who need to be in sync to control them. Their minds become one, and without that strong bond, the Jaeger isn’t going to be of use. This is a good plot point that establishes our two main characters, who both bring baggage into the situation. With Raleigh, the death of his brother during a Kaiju attack haunts him, he was connected to him at the time. Mako lost everything with a Kaiju attack, and thus she is held back because of this. There is quite a bit of time that the audience spends with these two, and while perhaps further development would have been beneficial, what there is is still quite good as there is a good understanding of what drives them.
The Kaiju are amazing monsters, their scale is grand and the scenes of their city attacks is truly something to witness. Rest assured this film will wash the taste of 1998’s GODZILLA from your mind, this is how giant monsters are meant to be seen and experienced. Both the designs for the Kaiju and Jaegers are unique, each one is not like the other and there is so much to look at. Del Toro has a fascination with clockwork and mechanics, this is evident with the Jaegers and in how they work. The same can be said with creatures, and these creatures feel like they escaped del Toro’s mind, yet remain something new. When these two elements clash and battle, the results are amazing, its grand but not over powering. The action is easy on the eyes, every punch and hit is clear, there is no shaky cam or quick cuts to cause confusion.
This is a film that boasts a great cast, each delivering a good and enjoyable character to be around. The stand out of the cast is Rinko Kikuchi, her slightly shy but tough as nails Mako is a great creation. It would have been easy to have this character be a background thought, but she is very prominent, owning the scenes she is in with her amazing presence. There is emotion behind those eyes, which made connecting to Mako very easy. Charlie Hunnam who is perhaps best known for his TV work with SONS OF ANARCHY plays something quite different here with Raleigh. He’s a tortured soul, yet he steps up to the plate when he’s needed. There was a passion within Hunnam to portray this character to the best of his ability, and he achieved that.
Idris Elba as Pentecost was truly a force of nature, this is an actor that commands the screen and the audience is immediately drawn to him. The character seems typical of big Blockbusters, yet he remains fresh and I’d give credit to Elba and del Toro, a match that really has a connection. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman as scientists were a really great team together, sharing a very strange chemistry that was quite perfect. Their characters are comedy relief, and also there to move the plot forward. Comedy characters don’t always work, however these are two capable actors who trusted their instincts as well as their directors. There are smaller roles from Clifton Collins Jr, who owns every moment he is on screen, and Ron Perlman who quite frankly just steals his scenes.
PACIFIC RIM is a fun film, action/adventure films don’t get much better than this. There is a lot to enjoy here, from the fighting scenes (with top notch FX), to the character scenes, it all comes together to deliver an epic creature feature that is without a doubt A Grade. Trust in del Toro, fans of the man will definitely get something out of this and non fans are surely to have a good time also.