Pacific Rim–Movie Review

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3 Stars

Pacific Rim poster
Pacific Rim (IMDB) is a movie that aims fairly low and hits the target, delivering 132 minutes of mindless popcorn-munching diversion.

The story, co-written by director Guillermo del Toro, is heavily influenced by Japanese monster and giant-robot movies.

Some time in 2013 giant monsters started to emerge from a rift deep in the Pacific Ocean, clambering up on shore and making a mess of things. Dubbed “Kaiju” (from the Japanese kaijuu, a giant monster that smashes buildings) they were too difficult for the world’s armies to defeat.

The leading powers combined their resources to create a new kind of super-weapon, giant robots called “Jaegers” (German “hunter”). These could only be controlled by pairs of pilots neurally linked together, sharing their thoughts and memories. Naturally only a few people would be capable of forming such teams.

Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and his brother Yancy (Diego Klattenhoff) were one such team. They were quite successful until Yancy was killed in a battle with a Kaiju. Traumatized by experiencing his brother’s death though the neural link, Raleigh quit.

Unfortunately the Kaiju began to evolve to the point where they started to defeat the Jaegers sent against them. The world’s governments decided to cut off funding for the program and instead build a huge wall along the coastlines of all the countries bordering the Pacific. This worked about as well as you might expect.

Now the world’s only hope rests with Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) the former commander of the Jaeger program. He has collected all the remaining Jaegers in an old base in Hong Kong. He manages to recruit Raleigh to pilot one of them. Of course Raleigh will need a new partner and he ends up paired with Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) an attractive young martial artist. And now it’s time to bring on the special effects!

The Kaiju and the Jaegers have little or no personality and the heroes aren’t much better. Much of the movie’s entertainment value comes from some secondary characters. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman play a couple of nerdy scientists (a Kaiju nerd and a math nerd respectively.) Ron Perlman in a small role as a black market kingpin practically steals the movie.

I might be less cynical about this if I hadn’t just watched Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, a Japanese-made mecha vs. monster series that is vastly more sophisticated than this. Perhaps I am being unfair. There is probably no way that Hollywood could do a mecha vs. monster story that included serious themes. The audience would just find it ludicrous.

So Pacific Rim is what it is, and for what it is it is pretty good. You should probably just disengage your brain; there are all sorts of things that make little or no sense. But as mindless entertainment goes, this is pretty well done.