As a movie fan, I love when movies surprise me. Be it an awesome twist ending or a surprising character death, I always enjoy myself the most in a theater when I am surprised. Thankfully, that is the feeling I had after seeing Guillermo del Toro’s (Pan’s Labyrinth) new film Pacific Rim. While I try to be objective when going into the theater, there are some films that I am more excited about than others. Consider Pacific Rim an “other”. I am not a fan of the Transformers movies and thought Pacific Rim would be just like that, a silly story with so many outrageous battle scenes, the film becomes more monotonous than enjoyable; but surprisingly, del Toro’s monster film actually entertained me, especially the first act!
Of course there were some battle scenes (mostly towards the end of the film) that went on too long, but Pacific Rim is the kind of summer popcorn movie the studios should be producing! It has a great cast, state of the art CGI, and an interesting spin on a tired storyline. While I wouldn’t necessarily suggest you rush out to theaters to see this film, it’s fun for what it is, a big-budget summer blockbuster with monsters, robots, and Charlie Hunnam.
The year is 2020. For years, humans have been battling the Kaiju, giant alien monsters that rise from a crack in the ocean floor and wreak havoc on the world’s major cities. At first, the Kaiju were indestructible; modern weaponry stood no chance to defeat these Godzilla-esque nightmares. That is, until mankind develops Jaegers, giant robots that are just as big (and destructive) as the Kaiju and contain advanced weaponry. Due to the enormity of the Jaegers, two-person teams are commissioned to jointly pilot the left and right sides of each machine. Think Maverick and Goose in Top Gun, except instead of singing “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” in bars to bond with each other, the Jaeger pilots use a machine to sync their minds together, which enables them to control the robot as one.
Due to their strong mental connection, which allows for better control of the Jaeger, Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) and his brother Yancy (Diego Klattenhoff) are two of the best pilots in the world; their track-record for killing Kaijus is legendary. Unfortunately, this notoriety is short-lived after a battle with a particularly nasty Kaiju goes tragically wrong, resulting in Yancy’s death and Raleigh’s retirement from the Jaeger forces.
Cut to five years later. The Kaiju problem is only getting worse, with multiple monsters rising through the fissure at the same time that are also more dangerous than their predecessors. Because the Kaiju are also coming through at a progressively higher rate, the production of Jaegers has become too costly and it’s impossible to keep up with the demand. In order to save the world, the Jaeger force, led by Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), has to make one final push to destroy the Kaiju once and for all and they need their best pilots for the job. Raleigh is brought out of retirement and given his refurbished Jaeger and a new co-pilot. He is also introduced to Kaiju expert (and comic relief) Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) and mathematician Gottlieb (Burn Gorman); both are determined to find the best ways to use the Jaegers against the enemy and finally destroy the Kaiju’s seabed portal (a feat not easily accomplished). But will all of this be enough to save humanity or will Earth finally succumb to the monsters?
Obviously, Pacific Rim has similarities to Transformers. How can you not draw comparisons when both films feature giant robots engaging in battle? What Pacific Rim does right, however, is showcase the talents of its fantastic cast and focus as much on the human story as the robots. The audience is shown character arcs, as well as actual meaningful relationships between characters, which allows you to care whether they live or die. Not to mention, the CGI is so incredible, it’s easy to lose yourself in the world of the monsters vs. robots. I, for one, have already started planning my evacuation from D.C. if one of these things comes out of the Atlantic.
If you’re a fan of action-packed, CGI-heavy films, you won’t be disappointed with Pacific Rim. Admittedly, these aren’t my favorite types of movies, but I did appreciate del Toro’s ability to have a story rise above its incredible action sequences. I never thought that I would enjoy myself at a monsters vs. robots movies, but it looks like that day has finally come.
My Review: B-