Monsters! Robots! Yes! Guillermo del Toro's smashemup has all the cool things about monsters and robots and stuff without smelling like Battleship or anything done by Michael Bay. If you are going to do an over-the-top summer movie, you might as well do it extremely, right?
Pacific Rim is set in the near future and shows us what happens when giant people-hating monsters start attacking from an inter-dimensional portal deep in the Pacific. Mankind makes giant robots called jaegers to combat the beasts, and it is all pretty awesome, whether or not you consider yourself an action movie fanboy or not.
To be clear, I didn't go into this thinking it would be the Movie of My Life. But I was pretty excited. Del Toro is one of my favorite directors (if you haven't seen Pan's Labyrinth go do so now, reading this post can wait), and he has a special knack for monsters and things like of that sort. Combine that with giant robots fighting them, and one wonders why he didn't make this movie sooner. The result is (using my fanboy vernacular) pretty sweet.
That doesn't mean I usually go in for stuff like this. I have already expressed my distaste for movies in this exact same genre, like Transformers and the like. These movies get lost in themselves and turn into hours and hours of mindless destruction because it looks cool. And, I think, in anybody else's hands Pacific Rim would have gone down that same unforgivable path. But del Toro is an artist who respects his audience and the aesthetic he is taking part in. He realizes he is dealing in spectacle rather than in high drama, and doesn't pretend to anything else. Lots of going to movies has always been to see things that you just don't find in the real world. Del Toro glories in this to some extent, but he has a palpable reverence for it. The film is dedicated to some of the pioneerss of film special effects, and there are moments nodding to their genius and influence throughout. In that sense it is almost a fervent love letter to the work of del Toro's soul brothers and godfathers, Harryhausen and Honda.
The movie is by no means the Best Movie Ever. It really comes down to being a monster movie, with any attempt at "going deeper" really only resulting in interesting plot points. If there is such a thing as an "important" monster movie, this may be one. It upped the level of effective visual effects and has gone bigger than things we've seen so far. Then again, that could be the start of an uncomfortable trend, with poser fanboys taking the reins of the next extreme thing instead of artists. Oh well. At any rate, I liked it, and I feel that maybe Ray and Ishirô would have too.
Pacific Rim is rated PG-13 for hardcore robot-monster take-downs and combat-induced swearing, and features Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, and Ron Perlman.
by Chase Harrison