Guillermo del Toro’s “Pacific Rim” is the BEST giant-robots-fighting-things flick of all time. Considering how low movies like “Transformers” and “Robot Jox” set the bar, that statement may sound like a backhanded compliment. It’s not though, because “Pacific Rim” is truly this genre’s highest caliber film to-date. The picture’s exemplary special effects, editing, camerawork, and implementation of 3D cooperate to create a miraculous, yet convincing world where humans pilot massive mechanical men to combat mammoth monsters.
In this sci-fi tale written by del Toro and “Clash of the Titans” scribe Travis Beacham, hostile behemoths called kaiju arrive on Earth through a rift in the Pacific Ocean. Initially the kaiju demolish cities, although after a few tough bouts, humanity develops a defense against these otherworldly foes: The Jaeger Program. Through the initiative, pairs of people operate enormous robots known as Jaegers, utilizing a complex system that links their brains together. A global coalition of Jaeger jockeys has been successful at stopping the kaiju, until now.
Kaiju are starting to come through the breach quicker, larger, and in greater numbers, which is destroying Jaegers faster than they can be built, while simultaneously disintegrating public confidence in the program. Mankind is pushed to the brink of destruction as it grapples with how to defeat the monsters and seal the gateway for good. The only thing standing between the human race and total annihilation is a jaded former Jaeger pilot Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam) and his nervous rookie partner Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi). But can they conquer their respective hangups to save the planet?
From a technical perspective, “Pacific Rim” is phenomenal. Its lovingly designed and executed special effects give the technology in the film a slick, futuristic aesthetic while maintaining a believable, modern quality. On top nailing the look of this movie, del Toro’s team expertly handles scale, so that you always grasp the incredible size and power of the Jaegers and kaiju in comparison to the average person. Throughout the chaotic battle sequences and their aftermath, del Toro’s editing is handled carefully and his gliding camerawork is smoothly executed in a way that allows you to not only see the action clearly, but to be transported directly into it.
Of course, what would a massive robots-fighting-monsters movie be without 3D? Guillermo del Toro’s movie is one of the few where the medium works effectively in tandem with the storytelling. Cars and objects are frighteningly hurled at your face, while you’re battered with rain and smoke. There’s enough precipitation for Seattle and London combined, which borders on excess, without actually reaching it.
For a rebel who doesn't play by the rules, Charlie Hunnam's Raleigh is maddeningly vanilla. His partner Mako is equally disappointing because she fulfills the shy, subservient Asian-girl stereotype. The best characters in the film are supporting ones like Idris Elba’s gruff Jaeger commander, Clifton Collins Jr.’s enthusiastic head techie, Ron Perlman’s seedy black market guy, and the wacky researchers portrayed by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman. Day is particularly amusing as he channels his "Always Sunny in Philadelphia" manic energy to into this mad scientist role.
The only area that "Pacific Rim" falters significantly is in its writing. As an overarching narrative the movie is solid, however it’s frustrating that the main female character is treated so misogynistically by her male counterparts. They're constantly trying to protect her either from external threats or herself, instead of trusting her strength and abilities. Also, the dialogue and the narration in “Pacific Rim” are incredibly stupid, to the point that they almost drag the picture down. This movie is enthralling, and briskly paced enough, that you’re likely to overlook these shortcomings. Like me, your nine year-old-self will probably have too much fun watching giant robots beating the crap out of angry monsters to care.
My Grade: A-...as in Almost There! A Few Tweaks Away from Total Awesomeness!