Alien invasions with flying saucers are cheesy and no longer cool…
So the alien monsters in Pacific Rim are sent through a dimensional portal originating at the bottom of the pacific!
Kaiju vs. Jaeger
The core story of Pacific Rim is that monsters (Kaijus) have plagued earth for quite some time now and in order to fight them we had to build super tall robots (Jaegers) to punch them really hard.
Still with me?
Then Pacific Rim might be the movie for you!
If this sounds like Transformers , don’t jump to conclusions!
Pacific Rim is the joyous feeling that those robots evoke but unlike Transformers you don’t feel dirty and used after having watched the movie. Whereas Transformers is having its way with the audience and harasses them until they pretend to have actually enjoyed it Pacific Rim is consensual enjoyment.
A bumpy road towards a passion project?
If you are aware of the production history of Pacific Rim or just don’t care then jump to the next paragraph.
When I watched Hellboy 2 in 2008 I not only enjoyed what Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) had made, I was also super excited that this creative mind would write and direct the adaption of The Hobbit. Sadly Del Toro left that project because it stalled for so long and Peter Jackson delivered us a Hobbit that stylistically had more in common with the Lord of the Rings-trilogy than a Del Toro Hobbit would have had.
But very soon he found a new project that suited him: a massive 200 million dollar adaption of At the Mountains of Madness. This story by legendary horror author H.P. Lovecraft would not only have cost a lot, it was also planned as an R-Rated no-nonsense adaption and backed up by none other than James Cameron (Aliens, Terminator, Titanic… the list goes on).
However the studio decided that 200 million dollars was too much money for an R-Rated movie (which means a smaller market) based on an author few people outside the horror genre know. Instead Del Toro was given the project Pacific Rim – a movie that seemed more family friendly since it was PG-13.
So after this lengthy backstory of two fantastic projects being taken away from him I was very skeptical if Pacific Rim would have the same enthusiasm as a Hobbit or At the Mountains of Madness would have had.
The first few minutes of Pacific Rim made me forget all my fears.
Jump right into it!
We have seen many monster movies and most of them drag out the reveal of the monster for quite a while. And unless you are making a gripping drama with monsters as the background stuff (see Monsters) you should get to the stuff people want to see really fast.
Pacific Rim is excellent in this department.
- “what was that?”
- “that footprint is larger than a house”
- “it is heading for New York”
- “we have to strike back”
is done during the opening credits. And after that we jump right into the Kaiju/Jaeger battle.
We have to believe in each other!
Our protagonist is Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunman) who was a former Jaeger pilot right until his brother died. The concept of the Jaeger is that they are controlled by humans. But because the connection is so demanding a single human brain can’t take it without the pilot dying cracking down.
Therefore a Jaeger always consists of a team that has to work together. Inside a Jaeger you share all memories and feelings. But because Raleigh felt his brother dying in the Jaeger he has a tough time getting back in the game. Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) is a potential candidate but her story is tragic as well and all comes to the surface once they share a connection.
This helps to ground the massively scaled battles on a human level in order to make us feel some sort of attachment when the steel is smashing against the monsters.
Everything is about robots!
Unlike the Transformers franchise this movie is all about what it promises in the trailer.
- No jobhunting by Shia LaBeouf
- No pornographic Megan Fox shots
- No other chauvinistic stuff
- No useless cameos by unfunny guys from Hangover
- No blatant product placement
The event is not the newest hottest car but the Jaegers and Monsters.
In a summer full of movies that fail to be witty and wannabe snarky animated movies Pacific Rim is surprisingly honest and down to earth. It doesn’t pretend to be more than it is and has fun showing is enormous battles. It is also a sad sign that this movie is the only big blockbuster this summer that isn’t based on a book, comic, a tv show, a reboot, prequel, sequel, reinterpretation of anything…
Sure there have been Monster/Robot movies before but Pacific Rim exists in its own universe and doesn’t have to adhere to anything that has come before. The movie therefore is extremely confident and lighthearted and never stops to pander towards our nostalgia or anything.
Del Toro really believed in the fun this movie can be and if you are up for it you will have a trip full of awe, excitement and spectacle – pretty much everything big blockbusters were originally made for.
All the characters are revolving around the war between Jaegers and Kaijus. No characters standing in the background, everyone has their task. A standout are the two scientists Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Dr. Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman, The Dark Knight Rises, Game of Thrones). Instead of giving us two flat actors pretending to understand the technobabble the two are a pair of bickering cartoons and their ridiculousness was almost as entertaining as the robot fights.
Idris Elba is cancelling the Apocalypse!
But the greatest honor goes to Idris Elba.
Next to Fassbender he is that one actor who makes everything better – yes, even Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. And as with the two scientists Elba’s character has a very specific task: deliver as many speeches as possible.
So every 10 minutes Elba will stop to have a dramatic moment and he just nails them one by one right until the moment when he finally shouts the speech we already know from the trailers. And even though we have heard it a million times it still rocks.
A technical marvel
Although there is a lot of rain and fighting during nighttime Del Toro never loses his way of framing the action. There is no shaky cam, no frantic editing – the fights are slow, clear and absolutely enjoyable. The spectacle is made by an absolute fan who never sacrifices his vision.
The design of the monsters, the Jaegers and the entire world these artists has crafted is enough to make every other blockbuster this year look like a lazy production (which most of them were). And once again Ramin Djawadi (Iron Man, Game of Thrones) delivers a catchy score that doesn’t stand out too much but makes the ride even better.
There are so many great things to be said about this movie.
One might criticize this movie and it will certainly not connect with everyone like it did with me. But from the first frame I was swept away and there wasn’t a second I didn’t enjoy. I liked the characters despite not being very complex and was completely enamored in the spectacle. There are so many movies where I shake my head and wonder who the intended target audience was. With Pacific Rim I was happy that I finally was the target audience!
Bottom line I just have to say:
Thank you Guillermo Del Toro for this great ride!