Pacific Rim: B-Movie Monster Flick Bringing its A-Game
From the headline alone you can tell that I am a fanboy and, yes, this movie was made for me. It was made for all of us geeks that have waited a lifetime for a movie like this, and it was hand-delivered by genius director Guillermo del Toro. The movie features colossal beasts called Kaiju, which have emerged from a dimensional void in the Pacific Ocean. The Kaiju are held at bay by humanity’s last hope: towering robots warriors called Jaegers. I saw the movie in IMAX 3D and I will be disappointed by future viewings that will not be as grandiose.
Pacific Rim is a splendorous special effects gorge-fest, complete with a hackneyed plot and mediocre acting. In other words, awesome! It’s your standard fallen hero story – our protagonist, Raleigh Beckett (DC Comics’ and Warner Bros’ The Flash lead contender Charlie Hunnan), is a star Jaeger pilot along with his brother Yancy. Jaegers are so large that the mental load to control one requires two pilots, and Raleigh and Yancy are the best that the US of A has to offer. Their cavalier attitudes are reminiscent of Maverick and Goose from Top Gun. On a routine mission to stop an incoming Kaiju, the star pilots are met with an unexpected turn of events which leads to
Maverick Raleigh losing his brother Goose Yancy.
Fast forward 5 years: The Jaeger program is losing the confidence of the world’s governments as the onslaught of Kaiju attacks increases in both frequency and destruction. The governments of the world would rather focus on defensive walls, which we later learn have no stopping power whatsoever.
Against the will of the UN leaders, Marshall Stacker Pentecost (an inspiring-though-clichéd military leader played by Iris Elba) goes rouge and decides to stage one last stand against the Kaiju. The attack is fully staged, but he’s missing his last star pilot. He reaches out to Raleigh to do what he does best: fight monsters. But how will he fight the monsters of his past with the death of his brother still trapped in his mind? Jaeger pilots merge their minds to synchronously pilot the massive mechanized warriors. If he wants to win then he’ll have to put his torturous past behind him.
Many question Raleigh’s ability to perform after being out of the game for so long, especially Australian Jaeger pilot
Iceman Chuck Hansen. In the meantime, Raleigh is in search of a new co-pilot. The alluring Mako (Rinko Kikuchi), who serves as General Pentecost’s assistant, assists Raleigh in his search. She even hopes to someday pilot a Jaeger. But there’s no way she’d be able to partner with Raleigh. No way.
Several potential candidates are selected, tested, and failed. Raleigh doesn’t just need someone tough – he needs someone with whom he is compatible. He then openly challenges Mako, to the disapproval of Mako’s (secretly) adoptive father Marshall Pentecost. She of course aces the test and the two are more than just compatible; they’re perfectly in sync. But the General will not allow his
daughter assistant to put herself in harm’s way. Not only because of her personal connection to him, but because she too has a dark and tortured past. It’s a love that could never be!
So the next day she’s his co-pilot.
The rest of the movie is just as predictable. From pilots that don’t get along to becoming best friends, to the Marshall vowing to never pilot a Jaeger then suiting up to help save the world. You can see every move the movie is going to make before it makes it. I don’t believe that this makes a bad movie. It’s a summer action movie blockbuster that delivers on everything that it promises. Action, robots, monsters, a splash of comedy, a dash of sentiment, and a tone that doesn’t take itself too seriously. For a summer action flick it’s definitely an A, for fanboys and fangirls it’s an A+, and for your mainstream American movie goer it’s a solid B. You will enjoy this movie.
There were also several subtleties in the story telling that I loved.
- The movies score is reminiscent of the Godzilla score, with its ominous bass-filled tones. The music always set the perfect tone whether it’s Raleigh and Mako bonding over their tortured pasts, or an epic battle destroying a major city. The sound effects were booming and thunderous, you feel like you’re IN the action! There’s also a fun treat for video game fans as voice actress Ellen McLain lent her talents as the Jaeger AI with a voice very similar to her work as GlaDOS in Valve’s Portal game series.
- The production was amazing. Beautiful CG combined with several practical effects that created a believable and immersive world. Even the Jaeger cockpit was a fully constructed and rigged stage, combined with green screen effects.
- We got to see several countries represented. Each countries Jaeger embodied the spirit of its motherland brilliantly.
- The relationships in the movie felt genuine. Yes the stereotypes were there and the acting was light, but the connection was still there. The bond between Raleigh and Yancy, the love of father and son with the Australian pilots, the protective father-daughter relationship with Marshall Pentecost and Mako, and most of all the connection between Raleigh and Mako.
- Raleigh and Mako clearly have a connection during their first meeting, but there was no forced romantic tension between the two. They seemed to have a deep mental connection, even before drifting (mind melding) in the Jaeger cockpit. My favorite demonstration of their connection is during the climax of the movie when Mako is trying to revive a fallen Raleigh. After regaining consciousness they lean in closely to each other and hold they foreheads to one another, contentedly enjoying the other. Then they embrace in a loving hug with one another. There was no Hollywood style kiss, no forced declarations of love, just two people in sync.
My only lament is that I wish there was more. I wanted more Kaiju battles. I wanted more back story. I wanted more. In lieu of a sequel, I’d love see more in the way of a comic or graphic novel series that explores the world of this movie.
This review is part 1 of a series about Pacific Rim. I’ll be doing a serialized follow-up by taking several aspects of the movie and examining their influences from the source material of what inspired the movie; Kaiju films (such as Godzilla), and giant robot anime (such as Gundam and Evangelion). I’ll also be examining how these genres are viewed, and disregarded, in mainstream American entertainment.
“Just who the hell do you think I am!?”