Pacific Rim shouldn’t be as good as it is. It really shouldn’t. From the way it’s been advertised, it comes across as mindless action romp featuring giant freaking robots fighting giant freaking monsters. But, while the ginormous action scenes are all here, Pacific Rim has a surprising amount of heart to it, and that’s what makes it so great.
In 2013, a giant monster attacks San Francisco and nearly destroys the entire city, killing thousands. It takes the military over six days to finally bring it down, and once its finally dead the people of America rebuild and move on. Until it happens again, and then again; and as these creatures start appearing all over the world, it becomes clear the attacks are not going to stop.
In order to create a defense that will protect their population from these unrelenting monsters, referred to as Kaijus, the world’s nations pool their resources and create the Jaeger program, in which two pilots enter into a psychic bond, called a neural handshake, and work together to control an enormous robot specifically designed to combat this new threat.
The premise itself is just amazing, and this world that del Toro has created feels alive and dangerous. Almost as soon as the movie starts, you feel apart of this apocalyptic conflict, and the script, written by del Toro and Travis Beacham, is surprisingly tight, never drowning you in excess details but instead giving just enough to immerse you in the events happening on-screen.
It would’ve been easy to make Pacific Rim just another giant action movie in the same vein as Transformers, but del Toro decided to do more than that. Yes, the action is here and just as glorious and exhilarating as you’d expect, but under the surface there’s a cast of characters that you actually care about and want to see succeed. And that’s what makes Pacific Rim better than every movie it’s inspired by.
The two primary protagonists, veteran Jaeger pilot Raleigh Becket and rookie Mako Mori, are two people with realistic motivations and fears that humanize them in a way we don’t see often enough. Becket is a skilled Jaeger pilot who’s turned his back on war after a tragedy hit close to home, and Mako is a young woman who wants nothing more than to prove herself as a capable pilot.
What’s refreshing about these two characters is that they feel real. There’s no forced romance here, which is such a breath of fresh air, but instead a naturally developing relationship between two strangers that is just fun to watch evolve.
The real scene stealer though is Idris Elba’s superbly named Major Stacker Pentecost, a retired Jaeger pilot and ice-cold leader of the Jaeger program. Elba has this electric presence on screen, and his stern demeanor is just mesmerizing to watch. He’s both cold and caring, and his stellar line delivery will send chills down your spine, especially during his now famous ‘cancelling the apocalypse’ speech.
However, not everyone fares quite as well as these three. There are, unfortunately, some characters that are just irritating, and they’re really the only thing holding the movie back from being better than it already is.For example, the two scientists introduced in the film, a mathematician and Kaiju ‘groupie’, are only slightly amusing, but more often than not overstay their welcome and become a nuisance to have to watch.
But even more annoying than these two is Ron Perlman’s Hannibal Chau. Stupid name aside, this Kaiju black-market dealer is so over-the-top and exaggerate that you just don’t believe someone like this should even exist in this movie.
Ron Perlman is always fun to watch on-screen, but this character is just to dumb for me, and once again, the film would’ve been better off giving the other, much more interesting, characters more attention.
However, when Pacific Rim throws you into the action scenes all the flaws don’t seem to matter anymore. Seeing the Jaegers battle the Kaiju is a sight you really have to see to believe, and I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed such truly astounding action scenes before. They’re just that good.
There’s weight behind every Jaeger punch, and you can feel the intensity of the violence vibrate in your core. Seeing these two giant forces clash is unlike anything I’ve seen before, and while totally extravagant and over-the-top, it satisfies every part of the twelve-year old hiding inside all of us.
And thanks to some incredibly creative designs for both the Jaeger’s and Kaiju, you never get tired of the confrontations and they’re always kept fresh and interesting. Every fight outdoes the one before in both scale, grandeur, and stakes, and you really feel the danger the characters are in.
The special effects are also amazing, and I can’t think of a single time that I didn’t believe in what I was watching on the screen. The only complaint I have in regards to the visuals is that during some of the water-bound set pieces, the excessant water flying around can make it a little tricky to see what exactly is happening. It’s not a common occurrence thankfully, but one that can get a little annoying.
Pacific Rim is everything a summer move should be. Explosive, intense, entertaining, and most of all, surprising. And this movie does all of that and then some. While its secondary character can get old fast, the primary protagonists are fun and believable people that you want to root for and, thankfully, don’t fall into cliche.
And in one of the biggest surprises of the summer, Pacific Rim comes packed with real heart; something most of the other action movies this year missed the mark on. Sure, there’s gloriously destructive action scenes around every corner, but the reason Pacific Rim is my favorite movie the year is the believability and heart of its main characters.
I can only hope that enough people take a chance on Pacific Rim, because it really is something special and deserves to be recognized for all the many things it does right. It’s not a perfect movie, but it is the perfect summer movie, and is most definitely worth your time and money.