Ever since I was in elementary school I’ve watched mecha anime like Dai-Guard, Full Metal Panic!, and The Big O; and I’ve grown to love more series as I’ve grown up such as Neon Genesis Evangelion and Gurren Lagann. I’ve also had an affinity for giant monsters, or Kaiju, such as Godzilla (I’ve reviewed Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster). Guillermo Del Toro’s new film, Pacific Rim, is a love letter to the giant robot and monster genres—packed full of action, heroes, carnage, and beasts. However, what separates this project from other blockbuster fair (such as Michael Bay’s Transformers, a film that regrettably has been compared to this one) is the passion and creativity imbedded in its design.
As exposited via narration by protagonist Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam), Earth has been caught in a war against Kaiju, giant beasts, which have risen from a dimensional rift beneath the sea. With humanity brought to its knees in combat against these titans, mankind unites its forces to create “Jaegers”—giant robots piloted by two humans who share a mental link and shared consciousness that operates the Jaegers. The stronger the link, the more efficient the performance. When Raleigh’s brother and co-pilot is killed in battle, he retires until dragged out by Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), the Jaeger forces commander. Pentecost ultimately pairs up Raleigh with rookie and prodigy Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), who also has her own baggage. Nonetheless, the two grow to become partners and join the war in its final days against the Kaiju threat.
Pacific Rim wastes no time in delivering what its audience has come to see—gargantuan combat. It doesn’t force the audience to sit through an hour of obnoxious and uninteresting characters who hog the film’s focus. It sets the foundation for the movie, establishes the characters and their motivations just enough to get you to care and establish tension, all whilst seamlessly constructing the world that they encompass. The lack of depth to the characters and story may bother some viewers (presumably those outside of the target demographic), but then, why are you watching this film for those things anyway?
The movie never goes too long without showing a thrilling action scene, whether it be a brawl, a martial arts duel, or the Jaegers and Kaiju duking it out. And when they duke it out they duke it out. The CGI here is astounding, giving both the monsters and machines a weight to their movements and actions. You feel the impact of their blows as you revel in the violence. Both Jaegers and Kaiju have original designs with sensible and well-utilized aesthetics. The scale is huge and is enhanced by the bright colors and lighting. There’s a fight scene in Hong Kong at night (as most of the fights are), with the city’s neon lights, that ranks among my favorite moments in the film.
Ultimately, Del Toro’s creation both targets a niche audience and casual viewers, all while bringing forth a refreshing passion and ingenuity that has been missing from Hollywood. It’s an example of how to make a simple (almost Saturday morning cartoon-like), fun blockbuster, without the dumb.