Pacific Rim is about giant robots (Jaegers) fighting giant monsters (Kaiju).
That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. I could end this review right there. Because it doesn’t matter that Charlie Hunnam is as bland as vanilla ice cream and sucks the life out of the set whenever he’s onscreen. It doesn’t matter that there’s hardly any plot other than what I mentioned in the first sentence of this review. Doesn’t matter that most of the beats of this film are lifted directly from Independence Day. Doesn’t matter that there are completely implausible premises, the most glaring (to me anyway) being that humanity would have the technology to create 60′ tall robots in the present era. All that matters is that this is a movie that delivers on what it promises: big robots fighting big monsters. On that level, the movie is a success.
So even though I acknowledge that this movie doesn’t set out to be more than a live action anime, with all the tired tropes we’ve seen thousands of times–the reckless hero who must redeem himself after experiencing a tragedy, the young rookie upstart who has something to prove, the rival out to steal the hero’s glory even though they should be working together, the hard military leader who has no problem kicking ass to get things done, the gratuitous martial arts fight scene–we’ve seen it all before and it would be an injustice to a movie like this if those elements weren’t included. But I think about a movie like Starship Troopers, which had a similar tone but presented these mainstays so much better, including the lead actors (one of which was Denise Richards, so that’s saying a lot). I also look back to Independence Day, which as I said, Pacific Rim cribs heavily from. Maybe it’s not fair to pit the preternaturally charismatic Will Smith against Mr. Hunnam, but it is what it is.
While Idris Elba gives his usual command performance and Rinko Kikuchi does a decent job, even at times when she comes off as a lost puppy dog, two standout performances are delivered by Charlie Day and Ron Perlman. In any other film, these characters both would have come off as extremely annoying, but perhaps here amidst all the so-so performances, these two breathe a little life into their scenes. There’s another character of a rival scientist, played by Burn Gorman, who is a full out cartoon and easily the most grating character on the screen. But then all is forgiven for the most part, when the big robots start fighting the big monsters.
If anyone had a problem with the carnage in Man Of Steel, this movie should have been pure torture because it’s worldwide carnage. But unlike MOS, here at least we get scenes of people being evacuated before mass destruction ensues. Of course, the global economy would collapse under the burden of rebuilding all the decimated infrastructure around the world. But let’s stick to the theme at hand: it doesn’t matter as long as there are giant robots and giant monsters fighting each other. The Jaegers make the Transformers look like Tinker Toys. The monsters are misshapen bulky spewing masses. They were spectacular. That is, when you could make them out. I counted about two and a half fight scenes that took place in daylight (I added the half because one of those scenes was from the perspective of a TV monitor). The rest of the scenes all took place at night in the rain, making it very difficult to make out the action. And at the conclusion of one spectacular fight scene north of an hour into the film, where a kaiju hurls a Jaeger out of the bay deep into the city, one would think the movie would start to wind down. Not by a long shot. After that, there are a good 45 minutes to go and it becomes a test of endurance for the audience. Not to say there weren’t entertaining moments yet to come; a scene where Ron Perlman does a great impersonation of Samuel L. Jackson in 1999’s Deep Blue Sea comes to mind. And I appreciated a scene where we’re treated to some back story for Kikuchi’s character, where she’s portrayed as a little girl (warning: the scene ends in a terribly corny fashion). But by the time the final showdown takes place, it’s to the point where you’re looking at your watch and asking the filmmakers to move it along. And to top it off, after squinting through the darkness and rain to make out what’s going on during the numerous fight scenes, the big showdown takes place underwater, making it even more difficult to follow what’s going on.
By the way, if you should find yourself piloting a 60′ tall Jaegar while in a battle with a giant kaiju, lead off with the sword. 1) It looks cool as sh*t and 2) um, it actually works!
I didn’t feel as though I wasted my money sitting through Pacific Rim. I knew what I was getting into when I signed up for it. What I didn’t know was how bland some of the performances were going to be, how similar to Independence Day the plotting was going to be, and how murky some of the fight scenes were going to be. Which is the real injustice in a movie where all that matters is–all together now–giant robots fighting giant monsters. 3/5 reels