Do yourself a favour and catch Pacific Rim in the theatres.
That’s it. That’s my review.
I had once assumed it was common knowledge that Grown Ups 2 belongs to the scum bucket. But I’ve made a huge mistake. In a world of moviegoers who collectively complain about remakes and sequels, it is disheartening to see so little support for this massive, original production. Do you want to see a world collapse under the pressure of banality? Huh! Do you?!
All right, so this is my review. As you can probably tell, I love Pacific Rim. Very much. After all, there is a primal instinct of love towards giant robots and monsters to be gladly obeyed. There is also much awe inspired, thanks to one of the most daring big-budget productions in ages.
Note: Playing this in the background may improve your reading experience tenfold.
Hollywood has never embraced the mecha genre quite as much as Asia does. In America, giant monsters seem destined to remain in the dust-ridden seams of Syfy/Asylum territory. Without an established fan base, this original property has to start off from zero and convince many of you who snub monster movies at first glance.
But here’s why you shouldn’t.
Pacific Rim is a film made by a fan, for the fans.
Director Guillermo del Toro understands the monster genre. Not only has his imagination birthed such iconic creatures like Pale Man and Faun. It is clear that the Godzilla-loving cinephile knows more than a few things about Japanese kaiju.
Enlisting the help of brilliant artists, his vision of an alternate dystopian future dazzles with grandeur. What stands out isn’t just the vibrant colours or the sheer scale. Every mech suit and monster stand out with distinctive designs, complete with meticulous detail.
While much is owed to Japanese influences, there remains a clear emphasis on creative spirit in the conception of ideas and characters. The expansive mythology will have fans prying every corner of the Internet for every trivial specification of each Jaeger.
The movie remains human, even in its mechanical environment.
Colossal alien monsters attack Earth, and Man has made gigantic robots to match. Pilots are mentally connected to their monster-fighting Jaegers, lending a face to the metallic armour. The diverse team of pilots branches out into several solid character arcs. One of which is that of Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), a formidable woman as capable to lead as the men in the military setting.
It is always welcome to see heroines who are not just serviceable but strongly developed. Written as neither a love interest nor one in constant distress, Mako takes on an active fighting role, driving her mission forward with both physical and emotional strength.
That isn’t new, of course. Ellen Ripleys and Natasha Romanoffs surface every now and then. But today, representation remains a huge problem in cinema, with women in films resting at the lowest numbers in five years.
I was very careful how I built the movie. One of the other things I decided was that I wanted a female lead who has the equal force as the male leads. She’s not going to be a sex kitten, she’s not going to come out in cut-off shorts and a tank top, and it’s going to be a real earnestly drawn character.
It is a shame that female leads are limited to one in the entourage, while we get to see little of minority Jaeger riders like the Chinese Wei Tang triplets. Then again, any more backstories in the already-huge crew may be an unwise risk.
We are glad that it is Idris Elba who gets to shine in large part and he steals the show as Stacker Pentecost. The Luther actor plays mentor and father figure to our heroine, commanding the screen with the restrained empathy and fearlessness of a great leader. Entrusted with the best lines, the man rightfully gets his Independence Day speech moment. And guess what?
It. Was. Awesome.
A sci-fi story needs its heroes, but what is one without its science squad?
In the science department, an impulsive Dr. Newt Geiszler (Charlie Day) finds his place alongside a calm and composed Dr. Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman). There is no better fun than to watch the contrasting duo bicker over the mechanics of saving the world.
Their friendship comes with comic moments, only outdone by black marketer and unlikely ‘partner’ Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman). All bring much charm to an unusually bright dystopian future. Before Pacific Rim, I have forgotten how much fun loud action movies can be. Balancing humour and explosive action, the rare blockbuster remains an utter enjoyment throughout the amped-up volume.
Sure, it is not all perfect. There are flaws.
Of destruction and salvation, the script suffers from some trite proclamations of bravado that I forgive and embrace. But I still frown at the condensed run-time of 130 minutes. Much of del Toro’s original plan is lost when some story arcs make way for others.
“We had a Mexican Jaeger with two ex-convicts that got a deal. They told them that, ‘If you drive a Jaeger one more time, we’ll give you freedom.’ But it was just too many backstories.”
But Pacific Rim is actually everything I’ve ever wanted.
Thank you Guillermo del Toro. This is the dream for someone who grew up on giant monster movies and still religiously watch the Power Rangers. I will give anything to see those missing pieces from the initial blueprints, so this makes for one hell of a rare occasion in which I’m screaming for a sequel.
Make it happen. Please watch Pacific Rim.
Possible side effects include:
- giddy excitement and a pounding heart,
- loss of sleep over the science behind neural bridging and a typical Kaiju’s diet,
- unexplained bond with strangers who liked the movie,
- disappearance of friends who disliked the movie.
If you haven’t gotten a ticket to Pacific Rim, do it now. Once, maybe twice, or even thrice. Then sit back, enjoy and look forward to the sequel, which is obviously going to be epic.