Sunday, 29 September 2013

They Made Me Do It...Again! #4: Pacific Rim (2013)

Pacific Rim is a 2013 Sci-fi Kaiju film. Directed by Guillermo Del Torro (Pan's Labyrinth, The Devil's Backbone) starring Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy, Green Street), Idris Elba (Prometheus, The Wire) and Rinko Kikuchi. The film is inspired by many of the Japanese and Mecha works of the 20th Century.

The plot actually begins not with the emergence of the Kaiju but rather several years into the war between the Kaiju and the man made giant robots known as the Jaegers, with a nifty prologue to get you up to speed. Our protagonist, and Jaeger operator, Raleigh Beckett (Hunnam) has recently lost his brother in an epic sea battle with the knifehead Kaiju and has resigned himself to a career in steelworking when he receives a visit from the excellently titled Stacker Pentecost (Elba). Pentecost, along with trainee Jaeger pilot Mako (Kikuchi), is able to convince Beckett to get back in the saddle as the Pan Pacific Defence Corps stage their last stand against the invading Kaiju spilling out of the trans dimensional rift at the bottom of the ocean.

I'm a huge Kaiju and Godzilla fan and right off the bat I can tell you that I wasn't disappointed by the delivery of giant robots scrapping with giant monsters and the film followed through on it's promise in every sense. The special effects are superb and not once did I doubt that the human and digital characters existed in the same space. There is also great effort and attention to detail that has been poured into the Kaiju lore which is explored through the slightly grating scientist double act and more entertaining turn from Ron Perlman as black market Kaiju organ dealer Hannibal Chau (a not so subtle Blade Runner reference). Aside from the digital effects there is also a lush visual design on display from Del Torro with the Hong Kong sequence providing a particular rainy, neon feast for the eyes that transports you straight to Los Angeles 2019.

The only thing that undermines the plot and high drama is the shoddy script and inconsistent performances from Elba and Hunnam. Whereas the Kaiju and Jaegers have had a lot of thought put into them the same cannot be said for the human characters and I found it difficult to get behind humanity when we have been provided with such insincere heroes. My expectations had been somewhat set by the trailers and for my money Hunnam and Elba have some pretty poor performances in their filmography but the ultra cheesy action movie dialogue and notorious "cancelling the apocalypse" speech made me wince. It also bothered me that the only Jaeger given the proper screen time was Gipsy Danger, the American robot of course, and other nation's Jaegers were quickly disposed of and I also felt there could have been a little more variety in the Kaiju design.

Pacific Rim is best enjoyed as an overblown, melodramatic homage to the Kaiju genre peppered with cartoonish protagonists and action bravado. A sort of Top Gun with giant monsters and you can't help but feel if there was a Pan Pacific Defence Corps impressionable young military types would be queuing up round the block. Smarter and fresher than most summer blockbusters a solid foundation has been laid and a good time has been had by all, but for me, I can't wait to see what they do with the concept next.

**** 4 Stars

What did you think of Pacific Rim? Are you on board for a sequel?


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