Pacific Rim – A Review

July 26, 2013 5:18 pm

‘Pacific Rim’ is this summer’s blockbuster action flick. From viewing the trailer, it was something that looked a bit too familiar. It seemed to be just another ‘Transformers’ knock-off being touted out by Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros studios to milk the ‘Transformers’ cash cow. But ‘Pacific Rim’ is something a bit different .Some of it good, but some of it bad.

Set in the year 2020, ‘Pacific Rim’ tells a story of a future world living in constant fear of attack from creatures from the deep. These creatures are the Kaijus (based on ancient Japanese mythology) and pose a significant threat. They are as tall as skyscrapers, and haven’t popped up from the ocean for a cuppa’ tea and to say hello. They are coming up from the seabed after changes in the tectonic plates opened up a gateway to Hell, and like most things from Hell, they’re not happy chappies. Rather than shrinking back in defeat, each countries government unite to fund the building of special machines called the Jaegers (pronounced like the drink) which are piloted by Humans. In order to compete with the Kaiju, they are also as high as skyscrapers. These Jaeger machines were effective for a while, fending off Kaiju attacks for many years. But over time, they became less effective at defending the world. This led the united governments to cut funding, consequently ending the Jaeger programme and instead choosing to build a massive wall around the Pacific Rim, hence the name. However, this massive wall is easily destroyed by the Kaiju. In a last ditch effort, the former leader of the Jaeger programme, Commander Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), recruits retired Jaeger Pilot, Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam) to fight alongside co-pilot Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) against the final wave of Kaiju’s.

‘Pacific Rim’ is a huge film with impressive special effects. However, it tries to take on too much scope for its own good. Summer action films like this are often a bit silly with very few exceptions. Those exceptions – such as Chris Nolan’s ‘Batman’ films, need to have an interesting story to justify such compelling themes. For the most part, the story in ‘Pacific Rim’ was neither compelling nor interesting. Del Toro tries to give the film a bit more depth with a passing statement about the way we are destroying our planet, in that the Kaiju monsters thrive in areas that are highly polluted. The problem here is that this sentiment is lost in between all of the fighting and explosions. It is probably best, as it didn’t seem to fit in with what the film was trying to accomplish.

However, not all is lost in terms of a decent narrative. One plot device that stands out is how the bond between Co-Pilots Beckett and Kikuchi develops. It’s not your regular movie-romance. In order to pilot the Jaeger machines, one person must act as the left hemisphere of the Jaeger’s brain, whilst the other acts as the right hemisphere. To do this, the pair must ‘synch’ their minds and infuse all of their memories and emotions into one. As a result, their relationship blossoms as they both become witness to each other’s past traumas. Beckett lost his brother and former Co-Pilot after a failed Kaiju fight. Kikuchi lost her family to a Kaiju attack as a child. The two learn more about each other as the film progresses and become closer for it. It was an interesting way to see their relationship develop and made a nice change from the usual conventions of character development in films today.

Although there was a lot going on in ‘Pacific Rim’, it is Del Toro’s strength as a Director that kept the film together. It is often a sign of a great Director when they get to show off their range with directing different types of films. Del Toro is equally well known for his blockbuster action films such as the ‘Hellboy’ franchise and ‘Blade 2’, as he is for his dark fantasy works, ‘The Orphanage’ and ‘Pans Labyrinth’. So mixing characters from Japanese mythology with action film conventions was something Del Toro seemed suited for. However, what let this film down was trying to insert a morality theme and complex plot devices into the mix.  It just didn’t seem to sit right with a film that was marketed for its big-budget special effects. That’s not to say that fans of special effects blockbusters won’t understand or appreciate any of that, but it’s probably not what they were looking for. Attempts at originality in genre film making are always welcome, but not when it becomes confusing exactly what the focus is meant to be.

The ending will appease those purely interested in the action. It involves a massive fight scene with giant ships being swung like baseball bats, and buildings being demolished as the Kaiju and Jaegers fight through the streets of massive cities. This is good because it is an action film, after all. But as silly as the action can be in these cases, the film never revels in this silliness like films of the same nature such as ‘Transformers’. Fans of action films will ultimately leave satisfied. But there may be some who leave scratching their heads, trying to understand exactly what kind of film Del Toro was trying to make.

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