Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Idris Elba, Ron Perlman, Charlie Day
Running Time: 132 min
Release Date: July 12
In the near future, mysterious creatures known as Kaiju emerge from a portal at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, and these gigantic beasts waste no time laying mass destruction upon cities across the world. Finding conventional weapons to be ineffective, the human race unites and creates the Jaeger program, where two pilots take control of a 250ft armoured robot to battle the creatures one on one. But as the Kaiju attacks become more frequent and destructive, humanity must launch one last desperate attack to seal off the portal before the monsters overwhelm and destroy the planet.
Guillermo Del Toro, director of Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth, has always had an obsession with monster movies, and Pacific Rim feels like his love letter to the genre. A potent mix of Japanese monster movie and live action anime topped off with a sleek 21st century sheen, the film takes its simple premise and infuses it with a sense of awe and heart that’s often lacking in blockbusters. While the monster brawls are obviously the film’s main selling point, the filmmakers have wisely chosen to properly develop the human characters so that they don’t become lost amidst the monster smackdowns.
All of the actors do strong work with their roles, with Idris Elba in particular dominating every scene he appears in as the gruff Commander Stacker. The film lends an old fashioned, earnest sensibility to its characters, and while at times it can verge dangerously close to corniness, it never completely tips over. The underlying message of the story—aside from giant robots are awesome—is one of optimism and hope, with mankind standing together in the face of an overwhelming threat and positing that people are at their strongest when they set aside their differences and work together.
When the screen shaking brawls between the monsters and the Jaegers occur they are a marvel to behold. Unlike the messy chaos of a Transformers film, the battles depicted here are for the most part clear and crisp, and both the monsters and the robots are given a tangible sense of weight and mass as they tear through cities to get at each other. There’s an epic scope to these scenes and they are thankfully varied enough that they don’t become a thudding exercise in computer generated beings punching each other. The film looks stunning with production and creature designs that regularly impress, while the score by Ramin Djawadi is appropriately rousing.
For a film whose entire premise can be boiled down to giant-robots-punching-giant-monsters, Pacific Rim has a surprising amount of heart and depth to it. That combined with its kinetic action sequences and cool monsters make it undoubtedly the highlight of the summer blockbuster season so far.