Wahey! It’s time to review one of my most anticipated films of the year. Allow me to get specific about Pacific Rim.
Pacific Rim (2013)
I’d like to think that I’m still pretty in touch with my inner child. If I was to go back in time and hang out with my child self, I think we’d get along and whilst he wouldn’t appreciate the fact that I’m not rich enough to buy a spaceship, I think he’d like the fact that a lot of the things that appealed to him still appeal to me. Case in point: Pacific Rim, a film with the awesome concept of massive robots versus equally massive monsters and is certain to have children of all kinds, inner or actual, high-fiving each other and talking excitedly.
“Two thousand five hundred tons of awesome.”
When huge monsters known as “Kaiju” appear from a rift at the bottom of the ocean and start wrecking our cities, mankind has no choice but to build monsters of its own- huge mechs known as “Jaegers”. Pacific Rim picks up near the end of the Kaiju war, where the needle has swung heftily in the Kaijus’ favour and the Jaeger project is being shut down. Charlie Hunnam plays Raleigh Becket, a seasoned Jaeger pilot who had quit the mech business due to personal tragedy years before only to be called back in. Under the watchful eye of his commanding officer Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), Becket has to get match fit with the help of promising Jaeger candidate Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) to help stop the Kaiju menace and cancel the apocalypse once and for all.
I LOVED Pacific Rim. It’s an ice-cream sundae chaser to all those bitter pills that have been masquerading as summer entertainment over the past few years. It’s heaps of fun. It also proves that you have to be quite clever to produce an enjoyable “dumb but fun” film. Whilst it shares some DNA with metal thumpfests like Transformers, it’s not just soulless computer effects. The Jaegers’ central mechanic- the Drift, in which two pilots are required to mind meld to control the mech, ensures that characterisation is front and centre. This means you actually give a shit and have a stake in the big battles. With the Jaeger program being a global one, stereotyping is rampant. The Russian team in particular make Ivan Drago look like a subtle rumination on nationality. If there was a British Jaeger (and why the fuck isn’t there a British Jaeger?!) I’m sure the pilots would be wearing top hats, monocles and constantly reference the Queen.
The heavily promoted scraps are as fantastic as you’d hope they’d be. Thanks to the direction, I had a clear idea of what was hitting what, which is a rarity in this type of film. My favourite sequence was a brilliant nighttime Hong Kong smackdown amidst heavy rain and neon signs. After the sequence was over, I noticed my tongue was cold and realised it was because I had been staring slack-jawed at the screen for 15 mins or so. So many little bits or details had me cackling with glee. There’s an effective flashback sequence to Mako’s childhood where she was running and hiding from a massive crablike Kaiju. It’s really unsettling and gave me hope for next year’s Godzilla reheating.
My only real problem with Pacific Rim was how clichéd some of the characters were and how unimpressive the script was. I feel this was a stylistic choice as it’s basically a cartoon writ large, rather than a po-faced product with delusions of maturity. Intentional choice or not, it’s still a sticking point. We have a generic hero pulled back in for one last job, an arrogant prick who has to learn a lesson, a miltary leader who is adept at giving stirring speeches, a Asian woman wanting vengeance for her family etc etc. These are all well-trodden paths, but it doesn’t hamper the film too much. What did piss me off were the two irritating-as-fuck scientists played by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman. They’re meant to be the comic relief but their incessant, trying-too-hard-to-be-funny bickering had me clawing at my face. The ending was a bit too similar to The Avengers for me to get properly lost in it all but it was still fine.
“Today at the edge of our hope, at the end of our time. We have chosen to believe in each other! Today we face the monsters that are at our door, today we are cancelling the apocalypse!”
So yeah- Pacific Rim is near-perfect summer blockbustin’ entertainment. Even the 3D was well done. Don’t you dare go and see some wanking shit like Grown Ups 2 or some sequel to a past-it franchise. If you love the great tradition of big blockbusters that aren’t squarely aimed at the lowest common denominator and manage to be more than just a bunch of expensive pixels on the screen, see this. Watching the camera pan over a huge mech whilst Ramin Djawadi’s awesome theme boomed out left me with a huge smile on my face. I can almost guarantee it’ll do the same for you too.