Pacific Rim Review by Kurt Christenson
Guillermo del Toro has done the unimaginable; he’s made a live action, Hollywood version of mecha anime. It’s an epic spectacle but Pacific Rim is not the Summer Blockbuster salvation you’re looking for. It feels like a 132-minute amusement park ride, a pure popcorn flick, and as such it comes with tropes and formula, though del Toro does his best to make it not so apparent. But it’s there.
From daddy issues, to proving yourself, to emotional vulnerability through science fiction metaphor, along with all the heavy handed pathos you could hope for in a blockbuster, which is much more a critique of studios than del Toro, who more than proves that he can buck the system and deliver the goods when he needs to. But in order to make this movie you know certain standard story qualifications needed to be met.
Then there are giant robots (Mecha, really) fighting giant monsters (Kaiju) that are rising from the sea, erupting and smashing one another in IMAX 3D on the screen in front of me complete with special moves and mass carnage. It is something that we as a Hollywood audience have never seen before, filled with truly insane, epic action way beyond what most filmmakers can imagine and he sells the universe to you the entire time. I was invested, believing that these soldiers in their rigs and special suits were piloting massive machines, laying the smack down on sea monsters from another dimension.
While in the theater, I wanted go home and watch the prequel anime, read the graphic novels, expand on the universe created. I can only imagine how die-hard sci-fi fans felt when Star Wars first screened. Part-cynical, part-awestruck, but definitely inspired. How long has it been since we’ve had a truly original movie as a summer blockbuster and not some half-assed adaptation from some half-baked source material?
Okay, Avengers is probably the best case scenario, but the parallels between this film and that only shows that Watchmen somehow missed the mark, at least as a film, by not having the fake alien invasion, now we’ve forced the concept on endless repetition in our sci-fi films. An invading force (be it Chitauri, Old Ones, Kaiju) and how we can close the portal, stop the army, sacrifice and redemption leading to the happy ever after.
It’s formula but it can be done well. Here it just barely misses the mark from pure perfection by average acting performances (except the amazing Charlie Day) and messy Transformers-esque action scenes that are a blur of metal, monster, mass carnage and rain. If anything rain is the new lens flare, though there comes a moment when I needed to just clap because what I just saw was so awesome. You’ll know it when you see it, and you’ll clap too. But there’s too few of those moments.
So don’t think I didn’t like the movie, I did, but I guess if I was a thirteen year old seeing my first serious action movie, my mind would have been blown. Guillermo del Toro is a master of building an entire world, throwing unique visuals at us, and he also knows how to add depth to that, so I can only assume the umph I felt missing was pure studio influence.