Rating: PG-13 (sci-fi violence and action, brief language)
Length: 131 min
Release Date: July 12, 2013
Directed By: Guillermo del Toro
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Stars: 3.5 out of 5
Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 summer film, “Pacific Rim,” has been drawing buzz from all over the world. Even though giant monsters and robots are no longer as popular as they used to be, del Toro has never let popular trends get in the way of creating a good film. “Pacific Rim” is a nostalgic nod to vastly popular Japanese monster movies such as the “Godzilla” series. In fact, the monsters in “Pacific Rim” are called Kaiju, a Japanese word that translates to “strange beast.” The premise of “Pacific Rim” is typical of many monster movies, including “Godzilla,” “Cloverfield,” and “King Kong.” The Kaiju are rising from the sea and rampaging through cities, leaving a path of chaos and desolation that threatens the very existence of the human race. The world’s military forces come together to build Jaegers, towering robots that are the only way to safely combat these beasts without demolishing the cities and leaving humanity hopeless. Each Jaeger is controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds have been locked together, because the neural load of these giant robots is too much for a single pilot to handle alone. However, even these powerful machines are all but defenseless against the raw power of the devastating Kaiju.
Just when it seems there is no hope for humanity, an ex-pilot named Raleigh Becket and his enthusiastic but untested copilot, Mako Mori, team up together to bring back a powerful Jaeger that is considered by many to be obsolete. In spite of the doubts other pilots voice about the capabilities of this unusual team, they stand together as humanity’s last hope in the face of what seems to be the inevitable end of the world. Standing with Becket and Mori are scientist Newton Geizler, a black-market dealer named Hannibal Chau who sells parts from injured or dead Kaiju, and Stacker Pentecost, the fearless but harsh leader of the Jaeger pilots.
One compelling aspect of this film is the concept of drifting, the phenomenon that occurs when the pilots’ minds are linked. When two pilots link minds, they gain intimate knowledge of each other, including their ideals, secrets, and worst fears. This brings the pilots’ stories into the spotlight, giving humanity a chance to shine in the shadows of the jaw-dropping monsters and robots. Few monster films are more about the characters than the beasts, but “Pacific Rim” strikes the perfect balance between drama and action. Guillermo del Toro is the master of this balance. In the hands of another director, “Pacific Rim” might have been just another monster movie.
Because “Pacific Rim” focuses on the human characters’ stories, the cast had a chance to shine. Raleigh Becket is played by Charlie Hunnam, who was chosen by Guillermo del Toro because of his honest, earnest nature and earthy personality. Rinko Kikuchi plays Raleigh’s untested copilot, Mako Mori, a young woman who lost her entire family in a Kaiju attack. Stacker Pentecost, the leader of the pilots, is played by Idris Elba of “Luther” fame. Charlie Day takes on the role of Newton Geizler, a bizarre scientist who provides some comic relief along with Ron Perlman’s character, Hannibal Chau, the black-market monster-parts dealer. This core cast interacts flawlessly, giving a voice to humanity as it faces its darkest days. Every actor brings his or her own set of skills to the screen. The veterans take on the types of roles they have always been known for, providing a solid foundation for several new actors who are still making names for themselves.
Guillermo del Toro has a reputation for creating powerful films with compelling characters without resorting to overdone plot points, and “Pacific Rim” is no exception. Even though several themes in “Pacific Rim” are typical of many action films, del Toro’s trademark originality pays off. However, “Pacific Rim” is not a typical Guillermo del Toro film in some ways, especially where the use of computer-generated effects is concerned. Del Toro is known for trying to use as many realistic costumes and effects as possible in the creation of his movies, so when “Pacific Rim” was first confirmed, many fans of del Toro were wondering how the world-renowned director was going to bring the giant monsters and robots to life without relying heavily on special effects. However, due to the immense size of the monsters and Jaegers, many scenes had to be generated by computers.
Of course, whenever it was possible, Guillermo del Toro chose to film scenes the traditional way. This pays off well during the heartbreaking scenes depicting the evacuation of streets, homes, and buildings in an often fruitless attempt to save lives. Guillermo del Toro wanted to make a point about the reality of war without preaching, and he managed to do just that by showing the human side of mass destruction. Even though the war depicted in “Pacific Rim” is between monsters and men instead of nations, the price humanity pays for remorseless violence is the same.