p a c i f i c r i m
12th July 2013
Guillermo del Toro
18th July 2013
Part of me wants to shrug Pacific Rim off with our traditional ‘well what did you expect?’ Sadly, this is a film brought to us by the genius that is Guillermo del Toro. He of The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth. The first of those just would not leave my head for weeks and weeks after and the second was one of the most brilliantly uncomfortable / wonderful cinema experiences I’ve had. Mimic also managed to transcend its genre confines and I don’t even mind the Hellboy films. So, I guess we have to look at Pacific Rim in a little more detail….
The movie can’t be accused of being slow off the mark. Within the first few frames you’re treated to battles between Kaiju (huge Godzilla like creatures that emanate from the rift) and Jaegers (equally massive mecha-style robots controlled by humans - think something out of that Craig Charles TV show Robot Wars only much, much bigger) while a voiceover explains the preceding war and the results so far. Then a much bigger than big creature arrives and we are smashed into cliché number one of about three hundred as one of the two brothers piloting the robot is killed leaving behind his little bro. You see, in an actually quite interesting concept; the robots require two brains to control them. The brains have to be in synch or the robot won’t work. So when big bro takes a bath, little bro does not take it well.
Anyways, all that leads up to the fact that the big lizards are gearing up for a full-scale invasion from their universe on the other side of the rift. Sadly, the Big Bad Suits of the World don’t think that the robots are the best way forward and so cancel the program, deciding instead to put all their effort into a big wall. The flaw in this plan is as obvious as the wall is big but sadly the Suits aren’t very bright so it’s left to the clichés to sort everything out.
The film looks spectacular, the CGI is pretty much flawless though for most of the time there is little CGI / non-CGI interaction so comparing it is hard. Gigantic robots rise from the surf in the pouring rain, lights twinkling and water pouring off them, sadly this is all only metal skin deep. The fallout of the emotional connection required to operate the robots is never really explored and the clichés pile up so thick and fast that I just barely had time to raise an exhausted eyebrow before the next arrived. Want to take a guess what happens about five minutes after we discover that Elba’s character wouldn’t be able to survive another trip in a robot due to his past heroics? I won’t reveal it here as we don’t like plot spoilers.
And it's really the non giant robot / giant lizard characters that are left wanting by the film's general lack of interest in its human staff. We are left with a set of broad-brush characters that could have been copied and pasted in from any number of movies over the years. Idris Elba's fantastically named Stacker Pentecost (!) spends his time either chewing out rousing speeches or leaning on a console looking suspiciously like Steve McCroskey ruing the day he ever gave up glue sniffing. Charile Hunnam isn't left with much beyond being the brother of the other dead brother from earlier and really has nothing to do apart from the odd pout and dust up with the inevitable naysayer from the group. And Burn Gorman's limping scientist is clearly a role meant for Lee Evans. Ron Perlman crops up but isn't given enough to do to really make much of an impression beyond his inevitable exit and if you can't pick out the survivors from the Kaiju fodder pretty early, you really aren't paying enough attention.
I think the main issue I can pick out of all of the above is that I just didn’t have as much fun as I should have had watching giant robots punching giant lizards. If I’d been ten then this would probably be the best giant robots punching giant lizards movie I’ve ever seen. Sadly, I was left wondering if giant robots were really the most efficient way to kill a giant lizard. Surely some sort of helicopter mounted (cue Dr. Evil voice) laser beam would have worked better? I don’t know. This whole review has made me feel mean for disliking a film that effectively does exactly what the trailer promises. Look, if you enjoyed Independence Day and really want to see giant robots punching giant lizards, this is you movie, go see it now. Otherwise, you may want to give Pacific Rim a miss.
Check out the Pacific Rim trailer here.