Capitalizing on the popularity of enormous battling robots, invigorated by the Transformers franchise, “Pacific Rim” takes the idea one step further and pits towering manmade mechanoids against equally gargantuan aliens. The resulting carnage causes both tremendous destruction and a good amount of entertainment. The filmmakers clearly did their homework, not only capturing many of the elements that made classic overgrown monster movies so enjoyable, but also fusing those components with the more serious tone and setting of a contemporary science-fiction blockbuster. While the “Kaiju” (giant beasts) and “Jaegers” (giant robots) with their diverse structural designs and impressive CG wizardry are clearly the film’s pride and joy, the attention to detail in everything from sprawling shots of decimated landscapes to the bustling post-apocalyptic cities (a la “Blade Runner”) often invokes awe. If only the predictable and monochromatic human protagonists received as much care.
When a mysterious rift appears in in the Pacific Ocean that begins pouring forth alien leviathans known as “Kaiju,” mankind turns to crafting their own human-piloted mountains of metal and mechanics, dubbed “Jagers,” to combat the new threat. After Jager pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) loses his brother in a Kaiju assault, he leaves the outfit and vows never to helm the hulking robots again. But as the frequency of attacks from the otherworldly monstrosities steadily increases, and the government’s alternative “Wall of Life” strategy to block out the stampeding beasts inevitably fails, Becket is forced to once again return to the motorized colossi. Rejoining the Jager program under the command of veteran warrior Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), Raleigh teams with new co-pilot Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) in a last ditch attempt to destroy the Kaiju and reclaim the planet.
“Pacific Rim” might be one of the first films to demand a larger screen. Nearly every shot features items so unwieldy that they simply can’t fit onscreen together, constantly bleeding off the edges to the point that audience eyes will struggle to take it all in. Visually, it’s not such a bad thing – the computer graphics are so phenomenal, there’s nothing gimmicky or evident about the almost entirely green-screened environments. Models are breathtaking, details are astonishingly encompassing, and the special effects are seamless. Never has the cataclysmic demolition of cityscapes been so thrilling, easily trumping the slew of forgettable superhero movies of late, all of which use paralyzingly overdone annihilations to compensate for lack of plot. While this film’s storyline isn’t mind-bogglingly superior, the CG certainly is.
A new monster movie isn’t exactly original; but in capably reimagining what the dozens of “Godzilla” episodes could only hope to achieve, “Pacific Rim” has carved out an adventurous, deafening assault to the senses that will entice target audiences and agitate scholars. The mind-melding, neural handshakes, interdimensionary portals, and other scientific jargon (rankled by the researcher duo, headlined by one-note actor Charlie Day and aided by the overbearingly stereotypical Burn Gorman) aren’t particularly inspired, but draw upon the slight brilliance of right and left brain organics and excessive size requiring extra brainpower. With a touch of self-contained pop culture, an opening scene entirely too lengthy for its own good, Elba in an overdramatic but indispensable role, a notably strained romance, and a rock score that is too hip to denote the necessary seriousness for the sublime architectural carnage, “Pacific Rim” is a project steeped in potential and passion, but not quite able to deliver the cheer-inducing enthusiasm so clearly exhibited by the filmmakers.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)