What a way to kick off the new year with one of my favorite films, that still holds up now, even after 3 viewings. This was an interesting time to watch it as the first time I missed a lot of what was great about it but only enjoyed on a viserol level versus the second time where I caught the little details Del Toro put in that made his world spectacular and on the third viewing the issues I had through the first two really came up to the surface. This is still a favorite movie mind you, and I’ll explain why in the review, but though it is a favorite, it is in no way perfect.
“Pacific Rim” was directed by Guillermo del Toro who also was one of the writers of the screenplay and a producer. The other writer was Travis Beachan who wrote the original story and the other producers were Thomas Tull, Mary Parent and John Jashni.
The story begins with setting the stage. We expected alien life to come from the stars, but instead it came from a rift beneath the ocean. The creatures were the Kaiju and the only way humanity figured out how to fight them was constructing giant Jaegers (Robots) to defeat them. Humanity begins winning but things change when Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) and his brother fight a Kaiju and Raleigh’s brother is killed. This leads to him going into hiding and the Jaeger program declining, to the point that when Raleigh is pulled back into the war against the Kaiju, the Jaigers and their pilots lead by Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) are nothing more than a resistance.
The Pros: The Premise and World – The idea of giant monsters coming from an alternate dimension and choosing to fight them with giant robots is a cool one. What is especially cool is how desperate and lived in the world feels like. We see tons of people from all over the world forced to live in cramped spaces because all along the coasts Kaiju are forcing people to run and move and when rebuilding happens it is usually around the remains of a Kaiju. This world feels lived in and it’s all the better for it.
The Soundtrack – Ramin Dwajadi did a fantastic job with this soundtrack. It has a large epic feel and is great at adding tension and action to the fight sequences between the Kaiju and Jaegers, as well as being reflective when it has to be as well. I hope he does the soundtrack in the sequel.
Cinematography – Visually this movie is a beautiful and has some of the best CGI I have seen in any film. You tell how much Del Toro is a fan boy of giant monsters and robots and it comes out in the designs of both the Jaegers and Kaiju are unique and a joy to see on screen.
The Kaiju – The Kaiju are like the Zerg in that they are a hive mind that adapt and shape themselves to deal with whatever weapons the Jaegers and humanity has. We see this when Otachi can fly and has a long tale that functions as an arm, as well as Leatherback having an EMP charge to shut down Jaegers too. They are a great threat and I really liked their designs which were aquatic and at the same time reptilian.
The Jaeger Teams – There is the Crimson Typhoon with a team of Chinese triplets, a Father and son Australian Team with Striker Eureka, a Russian Married Couple Team with their jaeger Cherno Alpha and Mako and Raleigh in Gipsy Danger. Sadly Otachi and Leatherback destroy most of them in the coolest battle in the film. We do see them all get a chance to shine though, even if it is only briefly. Of the Jaeger’s outside of Gipsy Danger, my favorite one is Crimson Typhoon.
Hercules Hansen – This guy is a minor character who is actually pretty cool. He served with Raleigh and Pentecost and is constantly dealing with his angry and unstable son. They have a pretty strong connection though, which in the EU exists because they are survivors of a Kaiju attack where Hercules lost his wife and Chuck lost his mother. They have some great moments, though I attribute that more to Herc who is truly an interesting character who should have got more screentime. Max Martini did a great job.
Hannibal Chau – It’s one-eyed Ron Pearlman wearing sunglasses, a red suit and golden shoes while running Hong Kong’s blackmarket. There is nothing not to like here.
Stacker Pentecost – If this movie had only had Idris Elba to carry it, it would have been a good film. Not a great film since so much of everything else elevates the rather poor script further but Elba is by far the best actor on the screen. His character is complex having adopted the orphan Mako when she lost her parents in a Kaiju attack and he never stops fighting for the survival of humanity. He is the character who make Raleigh finally give a damn and is the one who fights off the Kaiju in order so that Raleigh and Mako can close the rift. He never stops being a compelling character and I wish he’d been the one going through an arc rather than Raleigh who is really forgettable. He goes out fighting though and is my favorite character in the film.
Mako Mori – Mako is the rookie pilot who deals with the trauma she faced as an orphan both in her mentorship and adopted by Pentecost and through her becoming partner with Raleigh. She has a great arc and personalized Gipsy Danger in great ways, giving it a sword for example, which it never had before. You can tell she loves the Jaegers and revenge is a great drive for her against the Kaiju. She is also one of the more reserved characters and much of her action is watching or in subtle ways advocating for herself. I’m really curious where they’re going to take her arc in the sequel, cause I hope she returns. Rinku Kikuchi is wonderful and her character is one of the more compelling characters in the film.
Gipsy Danger AI – Ellen McLain who you may know as the voice of GLADos from the “Portal” videogame series voices the AI! What an awesome decision. She does a great job and adds elements of humor to things as especially early on, Mako and Raleigh are messing up big time on drifting together. I hope she returns for the sequel.
Newton and Hermann – These two together have some great banter as Hermann is the scientist obsessed with numbers and theory while Newton is obsessed with Kaiju. Over the course of the film they come together and end up drifting with the Kaiju which in turn helps humanity defeat the Kaiju. Charlie Day as Newton is one of my favorite characters in the film and Burn Gorman owns it as the prim and proper British gentleman scientist who is opposite in personality to Newt.
Okay: Raleigh – The main character is pretty forgettable and could have been played by anyone. He isn’t a bad actor but I can’t really mention anything unique about the actors performance or what defined the character. This is a shame as even some of the minor Jaeger teams have more personality going on.
The Script – There is quite a lot of telling and some lines are pretty simple. It’s okay though since it reads like a comic book, but it’s not great dialogue.
The Cons: Chuck Hansen – This guy was an unstable prick for most of the series and I could never care about his story. It took learning about the loss of his mother after the film to give any sort of damn about this guy.
The Council of World Leaders – These guy are idiots and once they shutdown the Jaeger program and go for the wall that is useless at keeping back Kaiju, we never hear from them again. So much for humanity’s resistance being lead by the world’s leaders.
“Pacific Rim” remains a favorite and a movie I’d recommend to anyone who appreciates Giant Monster movies and robot mechs in television or cinema. This film is solid all the way through, with a diverse cast and character arcs and a genuine love of what is being done with the story. There is hope and loss, there battles that mean something, and it is all presented in a visually stunning way to boot. If Michael Bay’s “Transformers” or “Ninja Turtles” franchises were like this film in any way they’d actually be elevated to the level of good. Sadly, you will not find that quality there that Del Toro brings to his projects and the passions of his childhood. Definitely check it out.
Final Score: 9.4 / 10. Not higher because of script issues and how forgettable the main character is.