It has monsters. It has robots. And it is awesome.
“Pacific Rim” starts off with an introduction that leads the audience into a setting taking place about 12 years into the future. The intro shows how huge monsters, called Kaiju, begin to appear from portals deep in the Pacific Ocean. The Kaiju consistently attack the coastal cities on Earth and because of this, the planet comes together and builds giant robots, called Jaegers, to fight the menaces.
Once the movie gets to its present time, the audience meets Stacker Pentecost, played by Idris Elba. Pentecost is a military commander who is in charge of the Jaeger program, and he has a growing problem on his hands. The Kaiju are getting more and more dangerous and the world government is getting less trusting of the strength of the Jaegers. To try and strike a significant blow to the Kaiju, Pentecost recruits ex-Jaeger pilot Raleigh Becket, played by Charlie Hunnam, for a special mission. Becket, who has a troubled past, has to work with an inexperienced, but talented rookie, Mako Mori, played by Rinko Kikuchi, to pull the whole thing off.
Director Guillermo del Toro does in fact pay homage and even borrows elements from other movies and series like the “Godzilla” franchise and “Neon Genesis Evangelion.” However, the film never feels as if it’s ripping things off. Make no mistake, this does have some new and fresh premises, for example, the “mind drifting” needed for piloting the Jaegers.
The plot of “Pacific Rim” isn’t necessarily the strongest. There are predictable moments, and the run time is just a little bit too long, yet, del Toro manages to bring good execution when creating this story. The story itself is cartoonish at times, but the fact is, this movie truly embraces it. Del Toro knew exactly how to balance having fun with the spectacle, and still bring enough heart to keep one’s interest.
The same can be said with most of the characters. While they do feel like archetypes who have been seen before, the actors really buy into their roles and bring these characters to life. Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi make for great protagonists and have a nice onscreen chemistry with one another. Idris Elba is fantastic as the military commander Pentecost. Elba brings so much charisma to the role that he is able to make this strict, troubled commander believable.
Ron Perlman, who makes frequent appearances in del Toro flicks, is also a welcome addition to the movie. While not having a monster-sized amount of screen time, he still plays the part of a sleazy black market salesman nicely.
Now on to the part of the movie that is worth the price of admission, the battles between the Kaiju and the Jaegers. Nothing that Michael Bay has been able to show in three “Transformers” movies compares to the size, scale, and intensity that these battles bring to the big screen. Del Toro and his special effects team do a marvelous job at bringing these gargantuan creatures and mechas to life. The robots move very fluidly, making for fights where you can actually see very clearly what’s going on. Each punch that is delivered can be felt by the audience. The film expresses in great detail just how powerful these machines and monsters are.
The setting of the film is well put together, too. The technology of not only the robots, but the military base where they are launched from, all looks extremely good, especially the holographic gadgets at the disposal of those who stay in the command center.
This isn’t a perfect picture as “Pacific Rim” does have flaws. The movie could have been trimmed, some of the subplots could have been shortened and a few of the performances dialed back a few notches. However, the film has such absolutely incredible spectacle and just enough substance with its story and characters to have a heart and soul.
This is the best movie of the summer and arguably one of the better films of the year. Very high 4 out of 5.
This review was first published in the July 12, 2013 issue of the Wahpeton Daily News.