Runtime: 2 HR 29 MIN
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writers: Travis Beacham, Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Charlie Hunnan, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Max Martini, Robert Kazinsky, Clifton Collins Jr., Ron Perlman
“Popcorn flicks” have gotten something of a bad reputation in recent years; a reputation that in many cases is well deserved and wasn’t all that good to begin with. When done right a popcorn flick can be a tremendous amount of fun, when done poorly they can quickly become tedious, exhausting and downright painful. Pacific Rim is Guillermo del Toro’s first film in nearly five years- was this popcorn flick worth the wait?
In the near future, in the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean an inter-dimensional fissure has opened releasing giant monsters known as Kaiju upon the Earth. Pushed to the brink, humanity sets aside their differences and creates Jaeger, giant robots that are used to combat the beasts. The plan works… for a while but over time the Kaiju have overwhelmed the Jaegers and mankind must make its final stand.
Let’s get it out of the way early and call Pacific Rim what it really it is- Mighty Morphin Power Pacific Rim Rangers. It’s true, you could also make up some cute title referencing Godzilla but that’s a little too much like cramming a square peg into a round hole. The film’s story is so simple that the few attempts that are made to expand its scope fall painfully flat. Don’t delude yourself into thinking you’re going to see anything more than giant monsters fighting equally large robots.
As eye candy Pacific Rim is downright amazing, in most other ways the film struggles. Characters are clichéd and one dimensional, the dialogue is bathed in technobabble and even more clichés, and the story runs long with far too little time being spent on the film’s “real” stars while the human characters explain away the minutia. Instead of writing a film with compelling dialogue that creates a dramatic tone the script calls for the actors to yell their lines. The script written by Guillermo del Toro and Travis Beacham seems to be working under two theories- first, that loudly spoken dialogue equals dramatic effect and two, Top Gun is one of the greatest screenplays ever written. Both theories are wrong and if a Pacific Rim drinking is ever created based on either theory it could have deadly consequences.
There’s a lot to like about the cast of Pacific Rim and very little of it has to do with its main star Charlie Hunnam from Sons of Anarchy. He doesn’t do anything wrong but he’s not able to elevate himself above the weak script. The same can be said for Idris Elba, Charlie Day and Ron Perlman all of which are great at what they do but are either overshadowed by their robotic co-stars or held back by the film’s lackluster screenplay. Fairing worst of all is Rinko Kikuchi; she mopes through the film with all the enthusiasm of a sad puppy dog.
So after beating the script like a dead horse for the past several paragraphs you might be wondering what’s good about Pacific Rim? Simple, the action and effects look amazing. Pacific Rim is one of the first films of the summer to really deliver memorable effects. The Jaegers and the Kaiju look stunning and while the action may be juvenile it is satisfying. Unfortunately little of the film focuses on them and instead we’re treated to several dull human stories instead of the robot/monster action that was advertised.
As an unexpected but welcome bonus Pacific Rim takes full advantage of being presented in IMAX by filling the screen from top to bottom unlike many other IMAX releases. It doesn’t appear that any footage was shot with IMAX equipment mind you but at least the image isn’t letterboxed.
Also somewhat disappointingly the climax falls a bit short and is overshadowed by the penultimate action sequence. Even with a run time of over two hours Pacific Rim’s finale is hobbled together with little finesse, feels rushed and is full of half thought out ideas.
Pacific Rim tries really hard to capture the monster movie feel of a Power Rangers meets Godzilla kind of film but never finds the right balance. It doesn’t go far enough or goes way overboard but never finds sure enough footing to be truly successful. Is Pacific Rim worth seeing? It is mostly based on the special effects alone but make sure to check your brain and expectations at the door.