Pacific Rim ( 2013) Review (PG-13)

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I freaking LOVE Pacific Rim. One IMAX 3D trip just would not do. I’ve seen it in theaters three times now (twice in IMAX). Judging by its performance  at the box office, that may be a record for this movie, even if it shouldn’t be. Had I seen this movie at age ten, I might not be here right now having had a ‘Scanners-like’ moment from the massive blast of cool that is Pacific Rim. My two favorite comics as a kid were not the Avengers or the X-men or Batman like other kids who read comics like I did, but Godzilla and the Shogun Warriors.  I had every issue of both. I traded John Byrne X-Men comics for early issues of Godzilla. Sure, I may have been a stupid child, but I knew what I loved. I had the gigantic toys of both and the first Godzilla film that I saw was Godzilla vs. Megalon and that particular giant monster flick featured a robot, also. The director of the film, Guillermo Del Toro, has cited Godzilla and the cartoon Gigantor as the inspiration for the movie, but for me  this was the perfect marriage of Godzilla and the Shogun Warriors. Sorry, enough about me.

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Pacific Rim gets right to the business of giant monsters in the opening moments of the film. There is an invasion from another world underway; an assault on humanity and it comes not from the heavens, but from the deepest depths of the Pacific (hence the name). A gigantic beast comes ashore in California and carves a 35 mile swathe of destruction before the military manages to destroy the monster. Citizens celebrate the victory and life quickly moves on… UNTIL…

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Six months later another leviathan (dubbed with the Japanese term for the giant monster genre:’Kaiju’) comes ashore in Manila. Then another. Then another. Each time thousands of lives are lost amidst the trillions of dollars in damages.  The world’s populace realizes that the onslaught is not going to stop, so as the movie’s tagline states: We created monsters to fight monsters. The countries of the world  put  aside all of their differences to come together and fight something that threatens them all (making this dip into the fantasy genre).  What originally appeared as some kind of insane anomaly rapidly begins to look like a war against mankind (or possibly an extermination).

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The world’s resources are pooled together to build massive humanoid war machines (of course!) to combat the threat of these giant beasties. In short order (something like 2 or 3 minutes… yes, everything I just typed happened onscreen in like two minutes), Del Toro explains practically everything that you’re going to need to know, and despite being a simple premise (giant monsters vs. giant robots), it is highly imaginative as you would expect from the film’s director. The process through which the pilots of the Yeagers control their machines is a fairly complicated one, but Del Toro makes it easy to understand. Two pilots are necessary to control the enormous constructs (called ‘Yeagers’), where the pilots link minds in… (hands up, fingers twiddling, head back, eyes wide, eyebrows up  in astonished reverence)… THE. DRIFT. Ooooooooooo.

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Anyway, the film centers around a handful of characters involved in trying to stop the giant monsters who get categorized in the same way that hurricanes are. Idris Elba plays Stacker, the man who oversees the defense of the Pacific Coastlines by the giant mecha. After years of fighting the beasts who are increasing in size and frequency, the system of defense begins to be looked at as a failure. The world pulls the plug seeking other answers, but Stacker continues the resistance with the help of black market business types amongst other sources of revenue.

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He also recruits a former Yeager pilot named Raleigh, who lost his brother to the Kaiju ‘Knifehead’, which looks like an act of desperation to many of the other pilots and recruits, especially to Mako Mori, Stacker’s top candidate to become the next co-pilot of the Gypsy Danger, the last of the fusion powered Yeagers (which is sure to become a major plot point). I loved Del Toro’s description of the Gypsy Danger as “a cross between the Empire State building and John Wayne.” I loved that there was a little bit of the DNA of World War II B-17 bombers in the makeup of Gypsy Danger, also, right down to the pilots’ bomber jackets and a variation of bomber nose art displayed on the robot’s outer hull. I also liked the variation of the Yeagers, each representing some of the qualities of the countries that they are from, just as with each new monster attack there was something new to take in.

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Del toro obviously had a lot of enthusiam for the  story’s material and it shows onscreen. It’s a fun movie, especially when the EPIC battle sequences are transpiring onscreen, but Del Toro gives FAR more weight to the matters on hand than most other directors ever would. And when I say weight, I also mean literally. These aren’t the giant monsters and machines of your normal Hollywood summer CGI extravaganza. This isn’t Transformers with 30 story robots that move weightlessly like hummingbirds in combat. The monsters and robots have weight and they look massive. The director shot from the kinds of worm’s eye view angles as to give proper due to the enormity of these titanic imaginary beings and constructs. That alone separates this film from all of the other CGI pretenders. The cacophonous destruction that occurs in Pacific Rim is truly wondrous to behold if you like giant monster flicks (and I know you do if you’re still reading this).

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This isn’t going to be for everyone , of course. If you don’t like giant monster movies, by film’s end you may be as traumatized and walking as stiff legged as the younger incarnation of Mako does in one flashback in the story. There are some interludes for establishing the various human characters, but by and large the film is an unrelentingly monster action assault. It is at its very best when Yeagers and Kaiju are hitting one another (amongst other things). That’s not to say that the people in this are not good. They are. There is a sense of fun to the characters even when things are going very badly for them.

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Charlie Hunnam plays the role of Raleigh with the proper amount of humility, which is rare in today’s emphasis on heros that like to spout things like “I GOT this!” when confronted with situations that should be somewhat alarming. I love that particular movie phrase almost as much as I like “I’m getting too old for this shit” in any movie other than the Lethal Weapon franchise. Stupid, lazy writers… But I digress. I first saw Hunnam in the brilliant science fiction film ‘Children Of Men’. He was a completely different person in that film in attitude and in appearance. I would have never known that it was the same person had I not read it. I also really think that it helps to NOT have the big name actors in films like this. It gives a little bit more credibility to the proceedings. I say that, but I did recognize a lot of the other actors, but it never distracted.

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Idris Elba playing the very serious Stacker, is definitely recognizable these days. He actually has some of the funnier moments in the film. I did think his ‘Braveheart’ speech to rally  the troops in the final act was unnecessary and that sort of thing has become overused in these sorts of films. They very rarely have the same kind of gravitas that they once did and to me, this might have been one of the only two moments in the entire movie that fell a little flat. He still is appropriately leaderly (is that a word? No, apparently not…) in this and I thought maybe this (or maybe his part in Prometheus) was the best thing I’ve seen him in.

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It took about a half second longer to recognize the lovely and talented Rinko Kikuchi as the cutely rigid Mako. She’s slightly more modest in Pacific Rim than she was in Babel… Slightly.  Ron Perlman, is obviously one of the more recognizable faces. I tolerated his normal arrogant shtick more than I usually can, probably because of the sort of character that he’s portraying here. He also added some humor along with the two scientists. They took a little longer to warm up to, but by film’s end they might have made it into Pacific Rim’s highlight reel.

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This is a genre/ B-Movie flick of the best kind, where the people are secondary to the creatures, much like in the Ishirô Honda and Ray Harryhausen films that echo around in movies like this (and Del Toro rightfully dedicates the film to the two in the closing credits). The story is dumbed down just a little, I think for mass world audiences, but there may have only been one thing other than the aforementioned ‘Braveheart’ speech. There is obviously more going on with the relationship between Raleigh and Mako going by their actions and words. I’m not usually  the sort to NEED the conssumation of a relationship onscreen, but near the end of the film there… Well, I needed more than an awkwardly platonic hug. C’mon. Really? Just a hug? Sigh.

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Great movie, though. How do I REALLY know it’s a great movie? By how many times I’ve seen it and how many times I’ve seen it in GLORIOUS IMAX THREE D. I can’t think of a giant monster movie that I have enjoyed any more than this one. It is what it is and doesn’t apologize for that. This may not be Del Toro’s best movie (but then, I can’t see him ever making a movie any better than Pan’s Labyrinth), but unlike a lot of other directors he seems to get better as a filmmaker with each new outing. It’s still in theaters as I type this, so if you have not seen it, I would highly recommend that you do so. It’s just not going to be the same on the small screen. It rarely matters to me whether I see something in IMAX or otherwise, but in this case, I feel this movie NEEDS to be seen on the big screen and in that GLORIOUS 3D format. It’s a shame that it hasn’t performed better at the box office, because this is the kind of summer movie that should be aspired to.

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5 of 5

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3 Responses to “Pacific Rim ( 2013) Review (PG-13)”

  1. […] Pacific Rim I know what you’re thinking… “What? Giant robots and monsters hitting one […]

  2. Good review. Had a fun time with this one, even if I was a bit disappointed by how lame the characters were.

    • Crash! Landen Says:

      Thanks, but I would disagree a little. I always keep in mind what a film is and who the movie is for. If one goes into this film expecting Anna Karenina then one will surely be disappointed. I was a fan of the Godzilla/ Japanese giant monster films as Del Toro was, so i felt like I was in the PRIME target audience for this. The people characters in those films are mostly secondary to the creatures, but I do think you’re being a little harsh on the characters here. i didn’t find them ‘lame’ as you did. I pretty much liked everyone in the film (except maybe those ridiculous Russians). I even thought Ron Perlman was good here with his role seemingly tailor made for his hammy huge ego persona.
      But at least we agree that it was a fun movie.

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