PACIFIC Rim is big, bold, noisy and very silly.
It’s also a jaw dropping visual feast and as such, is utterly brilliant. Enjoyment of this film will very much depend on how willing you are to just disengage your brain and enjoy the ride.
The tone is set very early on in a lightning fast introductory montage. A rift has opened up deep in the Pacific Ocean, allowing building-sized monstrosities called ‘Kaiju’ to invade the Earth. When conventional means to defend themselves prove ineffective, humanity pools their resources together to manufacture several giant robots known as ‘Jaegers’ in order to level the playing field and take the fight directly to them.
Okay, hold it there for a second. If you just wrinkled your nose in distaste, this film is probably not for you. On the other hand, if your inner child just went ‘Oh yeah!’ – you are going to be in for one hell of a wild ride.
If you are expecting Guillermo del Toro’s trademark human drama tinged with dark fantasy in this film, you may come away disappointed. What we have here instead is his unabashed love letter to the Japanese monster rampage films of old and mech fetish anime all mixed with a bombastic video game sensibility. It’s a live-action cartoon, tonally much like the Wachowski’s version of Speed Racer (but far less psychedelic) and as such, perceived weaknesses such as the relatively predictable plot, ridiculously named cardboard characters with little to no development and the preponderance of clichéd dialogue, are far less damning than they ought to be.
What Pacific Rim does well – it does really well. The Jaegers are each given a distinct look (cynically viewed, they are ripe for merchandising). Heavy, hulking, noisy and brutish in their methods of combat – a refreshing contrast from the over complicated, over shiny, unnaturally fast moving robots of the Michael Bay Transformers franchise (which this film will inevitably and unfairly be compared to). The Kaiju too, although somewhat less defined, come in various sizes and keep presenting new threats (horns, tails, wings, acid) to keep the Jaeger pilots, and the audience, on their toes. The upcoming Godzilla remake has a lot to live up to after seeing these beasts tear through various cities.
It’s refreshing to see a large focus on the theme of cooperation throughout, both within the film (all nations in the world are united under the common cause: survival from extinction, each Jaeger requiring at least two pilots working in sync to operate, two scientists holding differing beliefs agreeing to work together) as well as in the actual production of the film– which features a diverse international cast and crew. Idris Elba is a commanding presence as the Marshall in charge and Rinko Kikuchi is interesting to watch despite sometimes coming off as a caricature of Japaneseness. Once again, if you keep in mind that these are simply ‘cartoon’ characters brought to life, it all makes sense contextually.
It’s similarly refreshing to see a film that just shamelessly sets out to have fun with what it does, bucking the current trend of the dark, gritty, angsty and realistic takes on what are supposed to be fantastical concepts. As well as acting out as pure wish fulfilment for adults that grew up on these kinds of monsters and robots, it’s largely kid friendly too. If you have a young boy or a nephew, take them to see this film immediately and they will love you forever!
It’s a loud, brash, visually stunning spectacle of a movie and if just the idea of ‘mechs vs monsters’ appeals to you on any level, seeing this on the big screen is a must.
Score: 4 out of 5
For more film news and review from Pillow Mag’s Sebastian Skelton, visit his blog here.
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