Review: Pacific Rim (2013)

Pacific Rim


Guillermo del Toro
Travis Beacham, Guillermo del Toro
131 min.
Charlie Hunnam, Diego Klattenhoff, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Max Martini, Robert Kazinsky, Clifton Collins Jr., Ron Perlman, Mana Ashida
MPAA Rating
PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief language

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When the dust of any sci-fi/action/disaster film settles, the keys to success lie not necessarily in the quality of the narrative, but in the credibility of the setup and the execution of the material. Guillermo del Toro, if nothing else, is a master executor. Pacific Rim may have plenty of flaws, but it’s one of the most entertaining flawed films in some time.

Set several year’s into Earth’s future, a mysterious rift appears at the tectonic plate divergence in the depths of the Pacific ocean, from which massive Godzilla-like monsters (later named Kaiju) emerge to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting populace. As the monsters keep coming, the world’s nations pool their resources to develop a new type of weapon to combat these massive creatures, gargantuan robots called Jaeger where two pilots meld minds to operate the beastly automatons.

After years of success, a string of blunders, including the death of our hero’s co-pilot brother, leads the nations to pull out of the accord and begin building massave walls to keep the monsters at bay instead of combating them directly. The head of the military project Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) collects what he can of the remaining Jaegers and brings together the best pilots he can in preparation for the inevitable disaster that will occur when the walls will undoubtedly fail to stop the onslaught.

His brother’s memories forever etched into his by their unity inside the Jaeger, Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) agrees to emerge from his self-imposed anonymity to help pilot one of the last remaining Jaeger in hopes that they will be able to execute a risky plan Pentecost has to stop the terrors once and for all. The problem is that Raleigh will need a co-pilot and the only one who could be capable of linking minds with him is Pentecost’s young assistant Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), a girl whose own history makes her a risky fit for operating a Jaeger.

There are plenty of twists and turns associated with this plot, many of which emerge early in the film and others are reserved for late-film shock moments. Many of these twists add an interesting, if expected element to the events and while none of them are wholly inorganic, some are a bit more far-fetched than a self-respecting sci-fi fan can swallow.

Del Toro’s script takes a number of modern social and political issues and jumbles them together into a plot that feels more organic than one would expect. Along with story creator Travis Beacham, Del Toro briefly tackles U.S. Isolationism with the construction of a massive wall instead of actually dealing with their problems, a plea to save the environment before we make our homeworld ripe for colonization by a species that cannot tolerate clean air, and then explores the necessities of cultural unification for the success and survival of the human race. International cooperation, hero worship and a number of other laudatory concepts emerge as the film plays out, but they are largely sublimated by vast urban destruction and a love story that develops far too quickly to be believable.

That’s not to fault Hunnam or Kikuchi who do rather impressive jobs in a film that’s target viewerbase couldn’t tell you the difference between Stanislavsky and Brecht. Both actors inject humanity and honesty into their portrayals in roles that aren’t as well written as they deserve to be. Just imagine a love story that develops over time rather than one that suddenly swells and becomes de facto in less time than it takes for Jaeger to kill a Kaiju.

Elba delivers one of the finest inspirational speech in film history, further proving he’s one of the our best working actors, especially in a film that’s only slightly too slight. Burn Gorman and Charlie Day as rival scientists trying to predict the Kaiju’s future movements while combatting each other to be the star pupil under Pentecost’s command are infectious and engaging in spite of being mostly injected for comic relief with Day the clear standout. Even Max Martini and Robert Kazinsky as father-and-son Jaeger co-pilots compare favorably to other secondary characters in major action films.

That this much talent can come off believably is credit to del Toro who understands that even sci-fi spectacle doesn’t have to mean wooden acting. None of them (except maybe Elba) are really great actors delivering bravura performances, but they are far superior to most other performances in the genre today.

Pacific Rim builds itself as an event movie while having its quiet and contemplative moments. There are plenty of notable gaffes, leaps of logic and outright plot holes, but the overall experience is enjoyable enough that they almost become tolerable. Almost.
Oscar Prospects
Guarantees: Visual Effects
Probables: Sound Mixing, Sound Editing
Potentials: Production Design
Unlikelies: Original Score, Editing, Cinematography, Makeup and Hairstyling
Review Written
July 19, 2013

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