Pacific Rim (2013)

Guillermo del Toro Delivers a Gigantic Monster Bash to the Multiplex!

Finally, Guillermo del Toro has done what every other would be, mega-budget movie director that ever tried to make a film involving giant monsters and/or giant robots has failed to do. He has successfully captured the spirit and charm of those Japanese “man-in-suit monsters smashing model buildings” epics using computer generated images. “Pacific Rim” is Toho by way of tech!

Michael Bay has failed three miserable times (and he’s working on a fourth) to deliver a “Transformers” movie with a brain or a heartbeat. Roland Emmerich set the genre back ten years with his terrible American “Godzilla” update. Even Peter Jackson managed to suck the life out of “King Kong” with a three hour running time. Guillermo, on the other hand, gets it! Somewhere in his middle-aged brain still exists the love of those cheesy rubber suit monster slugfests many of us were exposed to at Saturday matinees or on Sunday afternoon TV.

“Pacific Rim” delivers the goods that monster fans want to see. It’s a beautiful, colorful film and the monsters genuinely feel massive on a scale we haven’t quite seen before. But the biggest city destroying battles would ring hollow if we didn’t care about the characters (see the climax of “Man of Steel”), and it’s here that Guillermo one ups his fellow movie moguls.

The film is grounded by upcoming actor, Charlie Hunnam (“Green Street Hooligans,” “Sons of Anarchy”) as ex-robot pilot, Raleigh Becket, who lost his brother in a battle with a giant creature five years past and has a score to settle. Hunnam is likely on his way to the Hollywood A-list. He’s teamed with Rinko Kikuchi as Japanese co-pilot, Mako Mori, who lost her entire family to a giant beast as a small child. These two characters fill gaps that each is missing when they enter “the drift,” a process through which they mind meld in order to be in the perfect synchronization required to pilot the giant robots.

Mainstream audiences that don’t have much experience with Japanese science fiction may initially feel alienated by all these terms thrown at them, like “drifting,” “kaiju” (giant beast) and jaeger” (the giant robots), but fans of Godzilla and anime will eat it up. The best thing I can say about “Pacific Rim” is that Guillermo’s unique sensibility makes everything just a little weird, and in this kind of film, weird is good.

Another thing Guillermo del Toro has done very well in “Pacific Rim” is world building. The technology, costumes, special effects and art design all combine to create a very unique, “lived in” world that helps make the more outlandish sequences seem more credible.

The supporting cast includes a number of solid character actors led by Idris Elba (“Prometheus,” “Thor”), Charlie Day and del Toro perennial favorite, Ron Perlman (“Hellboy”). It’s to these folks credit that the kaiju and the jaegers aren’t the only thing worth watching here. “Pacific Rim” is that rare breed of effects driven spectacle that will very likely be enjoyed by adults and kids alike.

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