2.5 out of 5 stars (decent)
B-movies are not normally my cup of tea. While I enjoyed the some of the Godzilla films for their outright campiness, as well as the 1933 and 2005 King Kong films, a majority of movies in this genre simply do not entertain me. I see and admire the effort put into them, but that’s normally where my praises end.
Enter Pacific Rim, Guillermo Del Toro’s big budget B-movie about guys in giant robot suits fighting monsters from another dimension. Despite not gaining huge success at the box office upon release, the film has gone on to develop a cult following, so much so that a sequel (Subtitled Uprising) is releasing this Friday. As such, I felt it necessary to go back and see where it all began, hoping that I too might enjoy this film the way that so many others do. While it works as a simple monster basher, Pacific Rim is confused about whether or not it aspires to more than that, resulting in a frustratingly uneven film whose first half is almost all plot, and its second half all action. I don’t know why I expected more, but alas, I was left unfulfilled.
The film has a crackerjack premise: In the near future of 2013, a portal opened up to Earth and with it a ton of decently-designed creatures (called Kaiju) that started destroying our cities. In response, the military created giant robot suits (called Jaegers) that two human pilots could control and use to defeat the Kaiju. We follow Raleigh (a bland Charlie Hunnam), a man who lost his brother in a Kaiju battle and wants nothing more to do with the war. But, as the plot requires him, Raleigh is forced back into the fight by General Pentecost (Idris Elba giving the best performance here), as their funding is about to be cut and they are losing soldiers faster than short shorts in Erie weather. He meets the feisty Mako (Rinko Kikuchi), and starts to trust others so he may pilot a Jaeger again.
Meanwhile, Pentecost is consulting with scientist and Kaiju fanboy Dr. Newton Geizler (an irritating Charlie Day), who believes that good can come from getting inside the Kaiju’s brain to learn what makes it tick. Other than that, it’s good old-fashioned monster fights that would make my inner child squeal with glee if I could see what was happening.
This movie definitely has an audience. Some of my best friends are huge B-movie fans and would probably eat this up. I was engaged watching the origins of the Yaeger-Kaiju battle and ready for cool monster action. However, the film then decides to focus heavily on its plot and characters, none of which were strong enough to maintain my interest.
The action is passable enough. Unfortunately, most of the battles are shot at night and in close-up, constantly cutting buck to the people inside the suits that take me out of the action. Guillermo Del Toro is a solid director (look at the first Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, and most recently The Shape of Water) for proof. However, he falls into Hellboy II territory: Having underdeveloped characters in exchange for whiz-bang action scenes. I like the creature designs when I can see them, but most of the fighting is so dark that I can’t tell the good guys and bad guys apart to save my life.
Idris Elba steals every scene he’s in and delivers his dialogue with Shakespearean dedication, out-acting everyone around him. Ron Pearlman has a fun supporting role (as in all Guillermo movies), but Hunnam and Kikuchi lack both chemistry and screen presence, a real handicap when they’re supposed to be the main leads. Lastly, Charlie Day feels extremely out of place here, yelling all of his lines like he’s filming an episode of Always Sunny In Philadelphia. That show is hilarious, but Day is supremely miscast here, making his character come off more like an over-caffeinated intern than a legitimate scientist. I don’t know who I would have replaced him with, but he seriously dragged the film down.
Pacific Rim has some passable fight sequences and a handful of decent acting, but its story is rote, its leads uninteresting, and its balance of plot and action skewered. I know a lot of people like this movie, but I simply am not one of them. Here’s hoping the sequel will choose whether it wants to be action-driven or plot-driven early, and then stick with that. All in all, Pacific Rim should satisfy monster mash fans, but leave everyone else checking their watches. See it if you like this stuff, skip it if not.
Rated PG-13 for Sequences of Intense Sci-Fi Action Violence Throughout, and Brief Language
This title is available to rent on Amazon here