Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Written by: Travis Beacham, Guillermo del Toro
Cinematography by: Guillermo Navarro
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko
Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman
Amusement parks—your Six Flags, your Canada’s Wonderland—I’d like to think we all love them, or at least aspects of them, for the sense of wonder, thrill, and overall happiness they can provide. For that brief moment in time, be it waiting in line, being on a ride, or just strolling through the park itself, you are confined to a place that is not of your world anymore. It’s an escape from the daily grind. It’s just you and fun, together again.
Pacific Rim returns you to the depths of fun you always knew you could have, but perhaps stopped having after the age of about twelve.
I could spend some time summarizing the plot of the film, but I wouldn’t need much of it: welcome to a world ravaged by Kaiju and the Jaegers we designed to fight them. If you’re not on board with the mere concept of gigantic monsters fighting huge mechanical robots (respectively), it would be wise to skip this altogether, because you will not be getting a subtle character study. Our heroes are two mentally interconnected pilots, played by Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarcy) and Rinko Kikuchi (Babel) with their own set of thinly developed personal baggage, led by their stern, yet legendary leader Idris Elba (The Wire), while working alongside the comedic stylings of Charlie Day (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and the always eccentric Ron Perlman (Hellboy). Given the talent amassed for this film, it’s ultimately a shame that no one truly rises to the occasion. And how could they? None of the actors are nearly as engaging (or their characters as insanely detailed) as the Kaiju or Jaegers that surround them, Ultimately, it’s that aspect of the film that doesn’t seem to work in the bigger picture; and make no mistake: this is a huge picture.
I’m inclined at this moment to plug Travis Beacham’s prequel graphic novel to the film, Tales From Year Zero, as the more nuanced and better balanced work, at least in establishing the world and the characters. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
Guillermo del Toro, who first caught my attention with Blade II (2002), has been an almost consistent filmmaker in regards to shaping his vision, be it with Hellboy (2004) or Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), or even with his lesser known films such as Mimic (1997) or The Devil’s Backbone (2001). With Pacific Rim, he enters entirely new terrain: the $200 million dollar summer blockbuster, and more or less, he delivers a product that he should be immensely proud of; it’s a labor of love to a genre that Hollywood has never seemed to have gotten right. It’s pure self-contained fulfillment, and del Toro, known for perfecting/revitalizing any genre he touches, knows this very well. Alongside writer Travis Beacham, he’s created a world that is a joy to witness and inhabit. There’s no doubt a plethora of backstory that was left on the cutting room floor (a reported hour is said to have been trimmed from the final cut), and dare I say, the film could’ve greatly used that time to fine tune the more human elements, because it already more than brilliantly captures and realizes the monster/machine dynamic. This film is a cinematic amusement park, full of groundbreaking and showstopping use of CGI, and entire stretches of screentime devoted to your mouth being agape in sheer awe of the spectacle before you. While you’re in it, you don’t want to be anywhere else, and when you’ve left it, it remains a fun, but distant memory, that you won’t relive until you revisit it again.
It’s the end of the world. Where would you rather die? Here, or in a Jaeger?