Pacific Rim Rated M 132 Minutes
Ed James - https://www.facebook.com/filmresponsedownunder
Pacific Rim is Guillermo del Toroâ€™s â€˜comebackâ€™ film since he hasnâ€™t actually directed anything since 2008â€™s Hellboy 2: The Golden Army. Sure, he has been producing films like the creepy Donâ€™t Be Afraid of the Dark (2010) and the entertaining, if forgettable horror Mama (2013); in fact, del Toro has contributed to countless other projects either as a producer or as a creative consultant. At one point del Toro was to direct The Hobbit films until, for whatever reason, this arrangement went belly-up and Peter Jackson assumed control. The point is, del Toro is a visionary movie maker who hasnâ€™t directed a film for quite some time. He has proven he can make highly entertaining, imaginative and critically well received â€˜pop-cornâ€™ films like Hellboy (2004) and Hellboy 2; and del Toro can also deliver artistically superior films such as 2006â€™s Panâ€™s Labyrinth. So, with a distinguished filmography and a return to directing after a five year hiatus, del Toroâ€™s Pacific Rim hits theatres with great expectations.
With Pacific Rim (PR) human civilisation finds itself threatened by giant â€˜Godzilla-comparableâ€™ creatures known as â€œKaijuâ€; or as one of the films characters Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) comments, â€œ2500 tonnes of awesome.â€ The destruction these creatures unleash on humanity is devastating with the scale of mayhem almost unparalleled; del Toroâ€™s â€˜play by playâ€™ depiction of how cities can be levelled is refreshing for it's detail. In terms of this detail of destruction I was reminded of the third act of Man of Steel. Whatever the case, PR continues Hollywoodâ€™s obsession with destroying everything we humans have built; and because the destruction is so well documented the entertainment value is considerable. To put it crudely, Kaiju kick ass.
Now, to combat the Kaiju threat humanity has come up with giant robots called Jaegars; thank goodness for industrialisation. Simply put, these Jaegars go head to head with the Kaiju in giant brawls, preferably out at sea. In fact, the whole point of the Jaegars is to prevent the Kaiju from going terrestrial. Since the Jaegars are so big and so complex to manoeuvre two controllers are required â€“ a left hemisphere (left brain) pilot and a right hemisphere (right brain) pilot. Together these pilots make a mind connection with each other; the fusion of two individuals thoughts in sync with one machine. This connection is known as â€œthe driftâ€; the better the connection the better the control of the Jaegar. Overseeing the Jaegar program is Marshall Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba from last yearâ€™s Prometheus and the upcoming Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) who, amongst other responsibilities, recruits pilots. The films hero and primary Jaegar team are Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam) and Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi). Each of these characters, for various reasons you will discover, bring emotional baggage into the Jaegar situation. Since each pilot is able to know their partners deepest emotional hang-ups a surprising level of characterisation is able to be communicated; especially given PRâ€™s blockbuster status. So, despite a rough beginning to their relationship, Beckett and Mori soon become the primary male/female pairing within the Jaegar initiative.
There are other pairs of pilots which add colour to proceedings but the duo which stand out most next to the Beckett, Mori and Pentecost characters are the comic pairing of scientists Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Gottlieb (Burn Gorman). Although their repartee verges toward the bad end of buffoonery they were, in my opinion, quite amusing. The Geiszler/Gottlieb pairing offer â€œscientificâ€ insight into the nature of the beasts they are dealing with by tapping into the thoughts of the Kaiju through various brain specimens the duo have on hand, although more specimens are soon required which injects Hannibal Chau (Hellboys Ron Perlman) into the mix. Ultimately, the aim of the Jaegar program becomes the destruction of â€œthe breachâ€ which is the entry point where the Kaiju enter into our world; it is Geiszler and Gottlieb making various discoveries about the Kaiju which make this ambition possible. However, this ambition is made more difficult with the increasing size and number of Kaiju invading earth and the fact â€the breachâ€ is located on the ocean floor.
There are a few issues with the films narrative which were distracting. One of the challenges Pentecost is faced with is the dismantling of his Jaegar program for the governments Plan B. Instead, funding is funnelled into the building of an enormous wall to keep the Kaiju out of the cities; like the wall in World War Z to keep the zombies outâ€¦yeah right. However, instead of seeing the development of this wall all we get is one shot of the barrier failing as a Kaiju beast penetrates this structure and proceeds to cause all kinds of havoc in the city. Questions arise about why the proven Jaegar program would be side lined in the first place for a project which is a complete an utter engineering failure. This narrative thread was interesting but not given any scenes to justify the presence of the idea. Anyway, as expected the Jaegar initiative is reinstituted.
The second narrative issue comes with the character of Mori whose emotional baggage is initially so severe that she is unable to make a satisfactory mind connection with her Jaegar buddy Beckett; no connection, no harnessing of her Jaegar's behaviour. This is a large hurdle because these two have such a great level of compatibility that they could make a big difference with the fight against the Kaiju. However, for the time being Mori is side-lined. At this point the Kaiju situation intensifies and without any informative scenes Mori and Beckett are thrust back into their Jaegar without any further emotional issues arising. This simply didnt make sense and came across as poor story telling. Such narrative issues make me wonder how much story was left on the cutting room floor.
On the positive side the set design in PR is absolutely amazing with detail popping forth everywhere your eye cares to scan; the appearance of PR reminded me of Hellboy 1 and 2. Then, there is the Kaiju/Jaegar fight sequences which are second to none. In fact, the showdown between the Kaiju and Jaegar in downtown Hong Kong is the single most epic CGI sequence I have ever seen. As opposed to Transformers, which were amazing fight sequences in themselves, del Toro's choreography of the fights make sense; we see what the Kaiju are attempting to do and we see the Jaegar pilots react converting their adjustments into their Jaegarâ€™s movements. As with any huge machine movements are never instantaneous. If the Jaegar is given the signal to punch then the robots arm moves slowly backwards and is then propelled slowly forwards as tonnes of metal is given momentum to strike the Kaiju with immense force. This is intelligent fisticuffs, done in spectacular environments which last a long time; simply awesome.
PR is another example of a blockbuster film which just has to be seen on the big screen. While films like Transformers contain fantastic visual effects they do tend to lack any meaningful character development. PR at least makes an honest attempt to connect its CGI sequences to competent scenes of characterisation; I actually enjoyed the entire movie as opposed to simply the action. However, make no mistake, this film excels when its in combat mode because we can see del Toro's imagination at it's peak; we sense his joy and appreciate his attention to detail. Pacific Rim is the welcome return of Guillermo del Toro to the directors chair as he proves once again blockbusters are not all created equal.