Ok, so before I get into Pacific Rim I’m going to start out by saying I am a fan of Independence Day and (probably obviously if you’ve read my other reviews) not a fan of Michael Bay’s Transformers movies – and its these two things that Pacific Rim most closely brought to mind.
Ostensibly an old-school monster movie in the mold of Godzilla and its ilk, Pacific Rim tells the story of humans (in giant ‘robots’ called Jaegers) fighting reptilian/amphibious monsters, or Kaiju.
In tone the closest touch point I could think of was the aforementioned Independence Day as there is very much a sense of a world in peril, however, rather than the somewhat jingoistic feel of that movie what we have here, as the film itself at one point even states, is something more akin to an underground resistance movement as the UN is portrayed, very briefly, as largely self-interested and not that bothered by helping the general population.
But that makes it sound like a rather political picture, which really, it isn’t. What it is, is a b-movie with a budget so, while traditional b-pictures would talk about, hint and suggest things, Pacific Rim shows them to us, in grand style.
It’s the visuals that really stand out and show just how bad the work in Transformers is. While in Bay’s movies it was hard to follow the action of the big robots, here the truly giant machines and monsters (approximately 25 storeys tall it seems) fill the screen but you can consistently tell what is happening, to who and where, and with a sense of danger and peril maintained throughout as well.
Another aspect of the visuals that really stands out, and would have been the make or break of the movie, is the designs. The Jaegers all have their own personality that come through in the way they move and ‘act’ and the Kaiju also all have their own characteristics. As well as this the Jaeger hangers and even the near future Hong Kong all appear suitably lived in and are another part of the world building that marks this out from many lesser movies in this genre.
Of course if it were all just well designed Jaegers and Kaiju fighting the film would still fail, but along with that we get the human characters who, while far from the most well-rounded and three-dimensional characters ever committed to celluloid (or hard drive), hold together another side of the story that gives us enough of something else to keep things moving, while never distracting from the main event.
There are points where, despite the typically cheesy b-movie-esque dialogue, you genuinely feel for and with these characters, particularly our hero Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam), his love interest and equal Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) and their commanding officer, the fabulously named, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba).
Being only my third (and second proper) 3D cinema experience I have to admit I still don’t really get its purpose, once again after my eyes had adjusted to it the 3D really didn’t add anything to proceedings and the light-loss was very noticeable in some places, though the worry I had that it would cause the Jaegers and Kaiju to feel smaller was unfounded, they genuinely feel brain meltingly enormous.
With a somewhat convoluted plot, fairly see-through characters and big robots and monsters fighting, Pacific Rim could easily have fallen into the same trap as Transformers, but, with a much bigger heart and more of a focus on celebrating b-movies than simply being a marketing and money-making machine, Guillermo Del Toro has managed to create a film that should become the standard for this sort of blockbuster fare, also, it seems appropriately if counter intuitively, I don’t want there to be a sequel to this one.