12 July 2013 851 Views

“Pacific Rim” Review: An Awe-Inspiring Achievement

by Christopher Moore

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I’m a huge fan of Pacific Rim‘s director Guillermo del Toro. I’ve loved every film he’s ever made, because he’s a passionate storyteller of the fantastical and every frame of his movies drip with enthusiasm for the subject matter. He’s extremely adept at integrating unreal fantasy elements (via practical effects or digital effects) into his films in a way that makes them believable and tactile to the audience. Pacific Rim is no exception. In fact, Pacific Rim should be the calling card for how to utilize special effects in order to make an amazing, original and exceptionally entertaining summer blockbuster. Check out my review of this new “popcorn movie” masterpiece after the break.

Pacific Rim portrays an alternate future where a dimensional portal has opened at the bottom of the ocean allowing alien monsters called “Kaiju” to escape and seek havoc on nearby coastal cities. Nations from around the world develop a robotic technology called “Jaegers” to combat these evil behemoths. As the film’s marketing states, they basically created monsters to fight monsters.

These mechanical fighting machines can only be controlled through a process called “drifting.” A method that involves neurologically connecting two peoples’ minds in a way, where each person controls half of the machine, but they work in unison for the common goal of beating the crap out of their alien counterparts.

Charlie Hunnam plays Raleigh Becket, a hot shot Jaeger pilot who went off the grid after the death of his brother and copilot during a violent attack on their prodigious two-legged war machine. He gets pulled back into action by his former commander, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), when they decide to utilize on old Jaeger unit, one that only Becket knows how to operate.

With not many Jaegers left to fight and Kaiju popping up more frequently with evolved destructive abilities, this group of ragtag Jaeger pilots will have to figure out some way to close the dimensional portal before the world is destroyed by these alien monstrosities.

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Pacific Rim is a visually audacious and highly enjoyable piece of popular entertainment. This film creates awe in it’s effects-driven creations in a way that not many films do nowadays. Like Star Wars in its heyday and later films like Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park,  this film has set the bar for future films that involve some form of visual effect. There were scenes that literally made my jaw drop. Some films like The Lone Ranger make you wonder where they spent all those hundreds of millions of dollars, but Pacific Rim displays every cent of the budget in resplendent glory. You really believe these huge robotic mechanisms are fighting “Mortal Kombat” with all kinds of deadly creatures from another world.

Of course, visual effects will only get you so far. There has to be a believable human element as well. Along with Charlie Hunnam’s rebellious hero and Elba’s bad-ass leader, Pacific Rim is filled with a competent cast of fun characters. You have Rinko Kikuchi as a possible co-pilot for Hunnam’s old-school Jaeger who is still dealing with issues of being attacked by a Kaiju as a young child.  Robert Kazinski plays Hunnam’s human antagonist, Chuck Hansen, a cocky and egotistical Jaeger pilot who is the “Iceman” to Hunnam’s “Maverick.” (That’s a Top Gun reference for those young people uninitiated with 80’s action films.) The comedic relief comes in the form of Charlie Day’s character Newton and Burn Norman’s Gottlieb. They are experts in the field of Kaijus with differing opinions which leads to a lot of fun bickering between the two. Plus, we have del Toro’s lucky charm, Ron Perlman, who hams it up as Hannibal Chau, a shifty black market dealer who makes money harvesting and selling Kaiju organs for all kinds of ailments.

Like most del Toro films, Pacific Rim is a never-ending buffet of beautifully-designed elements. From the different types of Jaegers to the creative variations of Kaiju monsters, the film is jam-packed with imaginative set-pieces drenched in a glaze of anime and Japanese monster movie influences. Seeing the film in IMAX 3D made this even more apparent. Plus, the film keeps you on your toes with all kinds of action-oriented surprises involving Kaijus and Jaegers alike and despite the level of widespread pernicious destruction, it finds time to tickle your funny bone with small moments of humor.

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My one and only issue is with the Pacific Rim‘s score. Ramin Djawadi, who composed music for films and TV shows like Game of Thrones, Person of Interest and the first Iron Man film, creates a score that’s disconnected from the movie in spots, especially in the more dramatic moments that aren’t action-oriented. It almost comes off very 80-ish in style and doesn’t fully integrate with scenes, but the film is so strong in everything else that this is a minor issue.

Overall, I found Pacific Rim to be an innovative and crowd-pleasing journey into the world of giant robots fighting monsters. Guillermo del Toro has created an instant classic that will forever change the landscape of visual effects-driven films. My main advice to you is go see this film! Show with your hard earned money that you want more original and well-crafted action films like Pacific Rim. Don’t let useless movies like Grown Ups 2 “Kaiju”-attack it at the box office. 

Also, when you go see it, stick around for a mid-credits stinger scene. It’s worth the wait.

Rating: 5/5

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P.S. I got this awesome poster at the 10 pm showing of Pacific Rim at my local IMAX theater.

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