Thankfully for a movie about psychically linked soldiers in giant robots fighting extra-dimensional monsters, the only thing mundane is the name “Pacific Rim.”
Review by David Feltman
“Today we are canceling the apocalypse.”
Had this film been released in Japan I’m sure it would have received a splashy and overly honest title like “Super Robo Monster Battle!” Thankfully for a movie about psychically linked soldiers in giant robots fighting extra-dimensional monsters, the only thing mundane is the name “Pacific Rim.” Just for example: in the first 15 minutes you get to see a giant robot, piloted by Charlie Hunnam (aka Jax from “Sons of Anarchy”), kamehameha a 40-story behemoth named Knifehead.
Story takes a backseat to spectacle, giving director Guillermo del Toro the opportunity to paint the screen in 3D madness. What we’re offered is a multi-million dollar Saturday morning cartoon filled in equal measure with mammoth Lovecraftian cosmic beasties (here named kaiju after Japanese creature features), cheesy end of days bombast and impromptu kung fu fighting. Every little piece of futuristic tech, every brightly colored projectile, every glowing monster orifice is designed to leap off the screen. This is the rare movie worth the couple of extra bucks for the glasses.
The cast is stellar. Hunnam and Idris Elba ham it up as the deep and brooding heroes while Charlie Day and Burn Gorman play an “Odd Couple” pair of wacky kaiju experts. Fellow son of anarchy Ron Perlman makes a comedic appearance as a kaiju poacher/black market male enhancement supplement salesman. The characters are admittedly shallow archetypes and the story about family and shared trauma is suspiciously similar to Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers,” but del Toro’s world is so big and imaginative that it’s easy to overlook the plot’s shortcomings.
“Pacific Rim” definitely marks a departure for del Toro, a man known largely for making quiet but visually striking fairly tales like “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Pan’s Labyrinth.” While del Toro’s knack for nuanced parables is sadly absent, his impish sense of humor and Jim Henson level of creature design elevate the film well above the typical big budget blockbuster. This film revels in nerdgasmic exploitation and offers everything you could hope for from a summer movie, assuming you were hoping for some robots to punch some monsters.