Monday, 15 July 2013

Movie Review: Pacific Rim

‘Pacific Rim’ is all about huge robotic goliaths going toe-to-toe with equally immense monsters. It’s an action packed, brash and astounding movie. I loved every heart-pounding minute of it.

The world is being attacked. Savage monsters called Kaijus have been travelling to Earth from another dimension through a mysterious rift in space located at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. In order to put a stop to the devastation caused by these Kaijus humanity has banded together to create their own monsters, enormous mechanical titans named Jaegers. Jaegers are the Earth’s last hope in stopping the ferocious Kaijus but with an increasing frequency of attacks, the Earth governments wonder, are the Jaegers enough?

Quite obviously the main attraction here is the almighty action of the Jaegers going up against the Kaijus. There are some combat scenes in this movie that exceed what has ever been shown onscreen in terms of spectacle and the thrills delivered in them will utterly floor you. To see such enormous and godlike action on the big screen is the wish of every young boy with a penchant for giant robots and honestly I never thought it would be executed so perfectly as it is here.

No matter what way you look at it, it is undeniable that the effects in ‘Pacific Rim’ are some of the most cutting-edge and lifelike effects ever displayed on film, the effects technicians have accomplished a phenomenal task and brought such larger than life ideas as the monstrous Kaijus and the colossal Jaegers to life on the big screen. I can’t get across just how jaw dropping and exhilarating it feels to watch these two monsters savagely destroy each other but it is certainly something that I would advise seeing in theatres, as ‘Pacific Rim’ simply demands to be viewed in a setting with a huge screen and a powerful sound system.

The gargantuan Kaiju wreaks destruction upon Sydney.

Guillermo Del Toro’s eye for stunning action as well as his own personal interest in the “Giant Mech” sub-genre makes him the ideal leader for a vast project like this. Del Toro knows exactly what fans want and he makes sure that everything that defines this sub-genre is present, including the variety of mechs, the biomechanical connection between pilots and Jaegers and the terrifying ferocity of the deadly Kaijus. Despite the seemingly simple nature of just having a monster versus mech brawl movie Del Toro’s job was much more difficult. From the past attempts at bringing this genre to cinema it is clear at how easily things may have went wrong and ended up as boring and uninspired as a film like ‘Robot Jox’, thankfully Del Toro has avoided these hazards and delivered what I would consider to be one of the best movies he has ever directed.

Charlie Hunnam leads the picture as Raleigh Becket; Hunnam is likable in the lead role but finds himself very much overshadowed by other characters towards the end of the movie. Idris Elba brings his signature smouldering clout to the role of Stacker Pentecost and does a damn good job at it; Pentecost is one of the more complex characters in the story and Elba is adept at bringing out the inner turmoil of a tough character like this. The low point of the cast is Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori, Mori never really conveys the same trustworthy and promising attributes that Pentecost seems to believe she has, instead she comes across as a screw-up and a character that is just ready to lose it at the drop of a hat. Rounding out the cast are supporting players Charlie Day, Burn Gorman and Ron Perlman who all impress just as much if not more than the main players, Perlman in particular steals his scenes as the character Hannibal Chau.

Something that really appealed to me in the story was the variety in the Jaegers. There are various different iterations of the obelisk spanning the globe each of which is defined by its country of origin. North America’s “Gipsey Danger” has all the elements you’d expect from being created in the United States, a focus on being proficient at combat whilst retaining speed and manoeuvrability. Meanwhile Russia’s mech “Cherno Alpha” in true Russian form specialises in grappling brutality and despite being older tech it still manages to hold its own against the onslaught of Kaijus. Australia’s “Striker Eureka” is the most nimble of all the Jaegers and boasts impressive speed for a machine of its size. To some people this “range of models” aspect may seem like purely a marketing ploy to sell licensed toys to younger demographics, while this may indeed occur it is important to look back on the history of this sub-genre and realise that including diversity in these robots actually builds character for these inorganic beasts, something which has been a staple of stories like this since the beginning.

The last Jaegers left on Earth: Crimson Typhoon, Gipsey Danger, Striker Eureka and Cherno Alpha.

My disappointments with this movie can be attributed to one aspect and that is when there are not giant mechs onscreen. I’m certainly not saying that all this story had going for it was its action, far from it, but in the scenes where dull characters like Mori were given too much time to whine and brood I felt a distinct disconnect with the tone of the movie. It’s crucial to feature human interaction and character growth in a story that has such huge stakes but quite a number of these scenes failed at providing any growth for the characters whatsoever and the interaction was too rudimentary to actually accomplish anything.

I really do hope that people go out and see ‘Pacific Rim’ as personally I’d love to see more of this universe through sequels. If something as sub-standard as the ‘Transformers’ movies can become a franchise then surely ‘Pacific Rim’ can finally end the run of Michael Bay’s sadistically awful excuses for films and pave the way for truly entertaining blockbuster action movies.

I’m incredibly envious of the eight-year-old boy that gets to go see ‘Pacific Rim’, because for him it’s going to be a life-changing experience and become the greatest movie he’s ever seen. I suppose I’ll just have to settle for it being one of my favourites in recent years.

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