Let’s cut right to the chase, Pacific Rim is really bloody daft. Giant monsters (‘Kaiju’) have risen from some kind of breach at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, prompting mankind to pool its resources and build these enormous robot things (‘Jaegers’) that make Optimus Prime look like a little bitch. What ensues is a load of clunky brawls and even clunkier dialogue. Ron Perlman is in it too.
Firstly, credit where credit’s due. The film is a technical masterpiece. The scale of what they’ve done with the fight scenes is not something to be ignored. It all flows with a sense of purpose and intrigue and, importantly, is never boring. Unlike any of the Transformers movies, the big fights are wrought with drama and actually put together properly. Somehow, this adds an element of believability and emotional weight in a film that is essentially a Bandai toy collection gone rogue. In fact, rogue would be putting it lightly. The Kaiju are well thought out in that they are absolutely ferocious, displaying a thirst for human life more akin to a horror flick, not a 12A summer blockbuster. This, combined with some bludgeoning sound design makes the Kaiju both starkly real and genuinely frightening.
The film is aesthetically astounding. The creature design, as well as that of the Jaegers is beautifully done. The art department really need a pat on the back here, as they’ve created monsters that reference pretty much everything we mere people expect to see when we think of the word monsters. References to post-war Japanese monster cinema (Godzilla and the like) are obvious, as well as the very real similarities that the Kaiju share with dinosaurs. It’s a huge triumph on a technical level, but is it enough to really carry the film?
No, not really. Pacific Rim, despite its best intentions, gets muddled in its own desperate grasp to something resembling a homage movie. There have been plenty of reviews that discuss at length Del Toro’s love of the monster movie, and how Pacific Rim is his tribute to the genre. Frankly, I’ve always found it better to review the film rather than the guy who’s directed it. This isn’t to say Del Toro is a bad filmmaker, quite the opposite in fact. Pan’s Labyrinth is a stellar piece of work, as if The Orphanage but they have exactly what Pacific Rim is missing; a bit of sense.
Despite the grandeur and bravado displayed by the technical elements of the film, it quickly becomes tiresome and frankly quite irritating that there can’t be a conversation held between two characters without delving into cliché. The stolen glances between main character jock guy (can’t remember his name) and cutesy Japanese girl (can’t remember her name) soon become irritating. The obvious hypocrisy that should have been spotted by a script editor is also something that is frankly amateur. During the opening monologue, main character jock guy talks about how he and his brother were “never top of the class”, three scenes later he’s talking Japanese fluently. It’s understandable that yes, this is a big dumb action movie, but is it so hard for a director of Del Toro’s caliber to incorporate some level of intelligence into proceedings? If Christopher Nolan can do it with a man dressing up as a bat and having a growly voice, then Del Toro can do it with monsters and robots.
There seems to be a deadpan sense of humour coursing through the film, similar to Hellboy, in which it works fantastically well. Here, however, it falls flat on its Kaiju arse. Two scientists, who appear to be a reference to the geeks found in 90s action/sci-fi cinema, come off as no more than annoying, not the comic relief they are obviously intended to be. What is most frustrating about Pacific Rim is the lack of depth. The first five minutes consists of a monologue that details the history of the war between humans and monsters. What is detailed here is genuinely interesting and shows that there is more to the ideas behind the film than is evident on screen. There is potential here for a whole series of films, but instead we are provided with a naff two hours of Charles from The Office having a nose bleed and shouting something about getting the jagerbombs in.
It’s all quite tiresome truthfully. Some may argue that it’s tongue in cheek, that it’s supposed to be daft and to an extent I agree. It is supposed to be daft, but no film should presume its audience is willing to lap up any old shit. It’s a real shame that the strands of story woven in the opening monologue aren’t touched upon more. Pacific Rim instead descends into a barrage of cheap thrills and forced dialogue-heavy intermissions between characters that nobody gives a toss about. To sum up, if the words ‘thunder cloud formation’ (yep) are supposed to be taken as a genuine line, then Hollywood needs to take a long hard look at itself. Enjoy it for what it is, nothing more, nothing less.