Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Idris Elba, Charlie Day, Robert Kazinsky, Max Martini, Burn Gorman and Ron Perlman
Plot: When a rift in the ocean opens up and sends terrifying monsters after humanity, the military are forced to build giant robots to fight back…
Pacific Rim might just be the most indulgent film of 2013 yet. Guillermo Del Toro lovingly creates this large scale sci-fi epic for what could very well be his childhood fantasies. The director obviously has a lot of love for this premise, wanting to see giant robots take on giant monsters in a context, where we can cope with the movie getting as ridiculous as it wants to. However, it takes a lot of skill to translate this kind of movie onto the big screen. This is the kind of movie you all want to see, yet no one really expects it to be any good.
From the off-set, we are treated to the promised grand set pieces. Charlie Hunnam and his older brother team up in their own giant robot and take on their own fearsome Kaiju. It is a massive spectacle and tidies away any scepticism that this film will fail to deliver. The robots are impressive, instantly becoming a favourite for the kid watchers. Matching them are the terrifying Kaiju, each more awesome than the last. I am sure that we all have our favourites and there could even be an animated kids show tie-in, waiting in the wings. Trading cards, anyone?
The actors are given the tough job of standing up against their CGI co-stars. Charlie Hunnam is likeable enough as our hero, although the better character is his partner, played by newcomer Rinko Kikuchi. She has the strongest backstory and adds some much needed depth to the narrative. Idris Elba is your typical powerhouse Brit, stealing some of the best lines and a spirit-lifting speech. I was surprised to see Eastenders’ Robert Kazinsky here and I am hoping this role catapults him into bigger roles (he was rumoured for the Hobbit at one point). Fan favourites will probably be Charlie Day and Burn Gorman who give the film some comic relief and almost accidentally take some of the spotlight from the heroes of the film.
My main gripe for this film is the fact that, when broken down, this feels like a re-worked 80s flick. We have the military camp that feels a little bit like a high school, especially in the lunch room. The hero is a pretty standard ‘good guy hero’ role. He has a rival that he starts the film hating, but ends up finding some mutual respect for the guy. His partner and he need to learn to work together to overcome the monsters and save the day. I know it feels a little less camp with the context, but eyes will roll, when Hunnam screams “we need to do this together” or lines to that extent. This is essentially Karate Kid with a fresh 2013 paint job. Don’t get me wrong, as far as 80s rip-offs go, this is up there with the best of them, but you will find yourself longing for some originality.
There are some smart beats to the film. The Kaiju are revealed to be more than your standard Godzilla type beast and there is a reference to the dinosaurs that terrifically expanded the plot. However, when the film slowed down and needed to rely on two-dimensional characters, we began to see the cracks showing. Maybe this is why I found myself enjoying the ‘Charlie Day’ scenes, when he runs off to Hong Kong to track down a Kaiju brain on the black market. Day has one of the more interesting characters to work with and, as ever, he has the kind of personality that you just enjoy watching. I was more than happy to watch the comedian bounce lines of veteran actor, Perlman. It felt more like the film I had been hoping for and if it wasn’t for some awesome battles, this would have been the highlight of the movie.
So how were the battles? Hit and miss. To be fair, I went in worrying that the robots fighting monsters would come across too messy, like the Transformers films. They weren’t as bad as I was expecting. Del Toro keeps the fights short and sweet, knowing that if he overindulges, the entire film could come crashing to his knees. The highlight is Gypsy Danger fighting off both Leatherback and Otachi (my favourite Kaiju, if anyone was wondering). Otachi has several layers to its creature and Leatherback has the best fight of the film. Del Toro seems to put most of his effort into this sequence, giving us some edge of your seat fighting. It is a shame that the finale doesn’t leave up to that fight. Suddenly, all of my fears were confirmed and the battles were too frantic. The final, biggest Kaiju was, ironically, the worst and least memorable. The last act shocks were predictable (again, think 80s films) and the film ends on a flat note, Del Toro seeming unconfident for the first time in his direction.
Final verdict: Great fun and everything you could want from a summer blockbuster, but the storyline feels a little out-dated and needs a spark of originality.