Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim can be summarized with one word: BIG. Big robots, big monsters, big characters, big action, big everything. Hideo Kojima (video game maker, Metal Gear) tweeted, “Pacific Rim is the ultimate otaku film that all of us had always been waiting for…”. In many ways, it is.
The initial Rim teaser trailer immediately reminded me of a childhood fave, Robot Jox. Let me know if you’ve heard of it. Jox was a cheesy robot vs. robot war flick from the 80s, which borrowed from otaku (anime/manga obsession) and capitalized on the decade’s Transformers craze. Pacific Rim is similar, which turned out as the childhood memory I had always been waiting to revisit. I sat glued to the back of my seat for the next two hours.
Charlie Hunnam (Son’s of Anarchy/SOA) plays Raleigh, a brave young pilot in the early years of a battle between the human race, and huge city-leveling monsters called Kaiju. The Kaiju are erupting from a portal deep below the Pacific Ocean at an ever-increasing pace, which thrusts the world into poverty. Raleigh pilots a Jaeger called Gipsy Danger, a massive robot designed to bring down Kaiju with heavy artillery and a unique fighting gusto. It’s not a bad sophomore film outing by Hunnam, however, SOA fans will immediately recognize Hunnam’s struggle to shed Jax’s limp and snarl.
The breakout star is undeniably Idris Elba, the British actor known for his roles in Prometheus and Thor. Here, Elba plays Stacker Pentecost, commander of the World’s fleet of Jaegers – and he commands this role. Pentecost is a steadfast leader, but losing bots to a relentless enemy results in the program’s dismissal. Pentecost and his team of zany scientists (Charlie Day, Burn Gorman) gather the remaining Jaegers and pilots for one last assault on the Kaiju portal.
The narrative loses momentum in the second act when searching for Raleigh’s replacement co-pilot and establishing a relationship that never feels natural. Pentecost’s adopted daughter and mech guru, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) is the right person for the job, but her childhood run-in with a Kaiju creates a potential rift in the mind-melding process. Jaeger pilots must combine their collective memories and thoughts to control their robot, but the process is taxing and extremely dangerous.
Rim successfully re-builds its steam in the final showdown between bot and monster. The fight scenes are so masterfully crafted and beautifully captured on film, that Michael Bay and Transformers better take note. Guillermo del Toro has set the bar at near unreachable heights. Despite the overused wet climates, Pacific Rim gives the movie-goer a desirable mix of open atmosphere cityscapes and claustrophobic ocean battles.
Ron Perlman has an underutilized cameo as the Kaiju corpse dealer, Hannibal Chau. The black market tradesman assists Day’s scientist with the necessary Kaiju remnants to complete his experiment, but suffers a terrifying fate at the hands of an infant Kaiju. Rim could have benefitted from a fleshed out black market sub-plot. I vote for a spin-off series or comic run. Chau would eventually have his revenge, so stay tuned beyond the initial closing credits.
Bring some friends, destroy some popcorn, and enjoy the thrill ride. Rim is loud and epic, so pick the most state-of-the-art theater or IMAX experience available. There are a few frightening scenes but for the most part, it’s no worse than Transformers violence, or the neck-snapping Man of Steel. If your kids can handle that, they are going to love this. Guillermo del Toro’s passion project was written for easy consumption, so while some lines come off clunky or over-explained, they serve a purpose, and they stay true to anime. Pacific Rim is one experience you will not regret splurging on this weekend. It’s a BIG fantasy sci-fi flick done absolutely right.