In what was touted as one of the summer blockbusters to go and get your movie tickets for, Pacific Rim delivered on huge visuals, an inspiring score and giant inter-dimensional monsters being fended off by human-controlled skyscraper-size robots.
The latest offering from visionary director (and auteur in his own right) Guillermo del Toro, is a Legendary Pictures production and distributed by Warner Brothers, so that alone means this is a film with boundless potential and the backing of major players. And that backing and support from big studios may be well-placed. It’s a fun, well-paced film with plenty of action and drama to tie over even the most casual moviegoer for its 2 hour runtime.
In short, the synopsis is as follows: in the near-future, monsters from another dimension, Kaiju, break through a rift in the planet deep below the sea on the floor of the Pacific Ocean (hence the name of the film). They soon begin to attack civilisation and prove to be a huge threat to the human race, with their attacks becoming bigger and more devastating every time. As a countermeasure, the countries and governments of the world unite, creating Jaegers, giant bipod war machines (or humanoid mecha if you want to be fancy), to combat the Kaiju threat. They are controlled by two pilots, who connect with each other in sync via a neural bridge, known as ‘drifting’. The film predominantly follows a former pilot and a rookie, who must team up to try and find a way to stop a full-scale invasion from the Kaiju.
Visually, it’s a truly fantastic film (despite it having the most rain of any film I think I’ve ever seen). The designs of the Jaegers are brilliant and individual, with such a good job being done on them it would be a viable idea that they were in fact in production should a similar alien invasion ever hit us. Each Jaeger has its own look and feel, each evoking a personality that is then projected further by its two pilots. The Kaiju are also a lot of fun to look at, even if despite them having different code-names, all seem pretty similar. Think Godzilla meets Cloverfield and you’ll get the idea.
Despite the fact that the ‘stars’ of the film are giant machines and gnarly aliens, where I feel Pacific Rim shows strength is through the depth of its human characters. The Jaegers may be impressive, intimidating and awesomely cool to watch, but we never forget that this is a story of human survival and perseverance against an invading enemy. It is as much a story about mankind and the unity of the human race as it is about metal meeting alien flesh around the world in deadly combat.
Stealing the show are the two male leads, Charlie Hunnam and Idris Elba. Hunnam finds himself in his first major film role since Green Street and a break from Sons of Anarchy on Fox TV, seamlessly ‘getting’ the character of Raleigh Becket. The washed out, anguished Jaeger pilot looking to once again connect and mind meld with a co-pilot who has had traumatic experiences and memories is played very well by a man who has made a career out of playing a tortured, brooding soul.
Idris Elba is also on fine form as Marshall Stacker Pentecost, who aside from his inspiring speech about ‘canceling the apocalypse’, brings a gravity and humanity to the role of the man charged with defending the planet from the alien threat. With Elba rising through the ranks of the Hollywood world following a successful career here in the UK (he was superb in Rocknrolla and BBC TV series, Luther), this role will only strengthen his acting chops and its no surprise why he was picked to play Nelson Mandela in the new biopic on the South African institution.
Rinko Kikuchi should not be forgotten in her role as the vulnerable, potentially unsafe trainee Jaeger pilot, Mako Mori. It was the first film role I’d seen her in and I thought she was great at conveying a subtle amount of anger at her past and present, whilst having the hope for the future that can be transitioned to the audience if played effectively. The other cast did well in their respective roles but it wasn’t anything eye-catching or wowing at all. They had their jobs to do, turned up and did them. No real standout moments for any of them, even if Ron Perlman’s short stint as Hannibal Chau was the best of the bunch. But that could be my bias for Ron Perlman, ever since first seeing him in Enemy At The Gates.
Another noticeable talking point of this film should be the score, which is bold, big and expansive. It’s practically everything that this kind of movie is in need of and harks to a very ‘Transformers-Michael Bay movie’ type of vibe. Ramon Djawadi has sparked musical genius with his work on Iron Man, Game of Thrones and Prison Break and can now add this science fiction-action epic to the repertoire. If anything gets you pumped up and ready for the fight scenes between the Jaegers and Kaiju, it will be Djawadi’s musical accompaniment (with some help with Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello). If you want a taste, either grab the soundtrack on iTunes or try to find ‘Pacific Rim feat. Tom Morello’ on YouTube. Ear bashing stuff!
So there you have it: it’s a fun, in-your-face, no holds barred, action flick meant for the summer blockbuster market. And in my opinion, it does the job it sets out to do. If you’re looking for a dramatic tale of the human condition and humanity’s plight to survive against seemingly insurmountable odds, then I guess you could find some solace in this film. If its out-and- out action that you want? That works too. A fun, exciting, things-fighting-and-blowing-up film. Well worth the watch.