I like to preface things, so I am going to do so here. (It’s probably an ego thing, but lets not delve deep where I have no depth, ok?) While I do not consider myself a giant monster or giant robot fanboy, I have seen quite of bit of both genres. Maybe it’s because of Chicago’s UHF TV stations playing them during my youth, or my never ending search for odd films in the video stores in my 20s, or maybe I just in the closet about the whole fanboy thing. Anyway, this review will be viewed through the filter of someone who watches this stuff, not through the lens of someone who is out for seeing great cinema. Oh, and by the way this review may contain spoilers.
Now, Pacific Rim is a movie about giant monsters and giant robots that has more than a head nod to the Godzilla (or Gojira) movies from the distant past. The director, Mr. Del Toro, wasa big fan of these movies growing up and he apparently wanted to update the genre. The premise here is that an extra-dimensional rift has opened up on the floor of the Pacific Ocean and that allows giant monsters (called Kaiju) to pop into our world and wreak havoc. (Why is “wreak havoc” the default mode for most extra dimensional beings anyway? Why don’t they ever come here to get some really good fudge, or catch Cirque du Soleil show, or even just spend a day reading on the beach? Their tourism bears a striking resemblance to American foreign policy actually…). In response Earth bands together to build giant robots, called Jaegers (German for hunter) to fight the monsters. We seem to hold our own for a while, until the critters come through more often and start to adapt their bodies and tactics to our efforts. We shut the Jaeger program down and start building walls around the ocean. There are a few Jaegers left, a few pilots left, and a leader who has a plan to end the monsters once and for all. That’s the basics.
This movie looks good. Yeah, that sounds stupid, but that’s the best I can do. Everything in it, all the set and prop details look really good. Much, much of it is CGI, but it is too the point where the CGI is not at all noticeable. I think this little fact goes a long way towards making this an enjoyable movie. Much like Lord of the Rings looked “real”, which made it easier to watch. Ok, now you are saying “it’s a movie with giant monsters and giant robots and this knob is going on and on about the scenery!”, I hear you, but don’t overlook the scenery here.
The giant monsters are cool, but I think that the robots are the better of the two. In the old monster movies you saw a lot of the monsters, full shots, as they smashed up model Tokyo. In this movie your rarely see a whole monster, or see them for very long. It is all in little bits and pieces, a bit like “Jaws” actually. Only here it does not build suspense like in Jaws, here I think it really only exists to keep costs down. You see more of the robots, but still a lot of the details are left out – I will get into an explanation of that later. The fight scenes between the Kaiju and Jaegers are fun, but a little confusing. When there are multiple robots or monster involved it is kind of hard to tell who is doing what to whom. The fights keep you in the story though, and why else would you watch a movie like this anyway?
All that beautiful scenery is covering up a mountain of plot holes and impossibilities that are going to make George Lucas think he made this film, or at least make him mad that he didn’t. I am not going to enumerate them here, but I will talk about them further in the “Other” section.
Acting. I hear that people in movies do this. If that is so, this was not a movie. Interesting dialog. That must be something that happens in plays I guess. Characters with motivations who grow. If I squint my eyes and turn sideways, I can see where some of that may have been present in this movie.
If you willingly went to a movie that features the idea of extra-dimensional monsters on this scale, humungous robots piloted by pairs of pilots through mind control, and a dimensional rift on the bottom of the ocean then you are on thin ice when you complain about plot holes and impossibilities when it comes to the details. No debris or clouds of silt just after you detonate a nuclear weapon on the bottom of the ocean? Don’t worry about it… look a giant monster! 8 helicopters carrying a giant robot that weighs hundreds of tons? Whatcoo talkin ‘bout Willis – and hey look another giant monster! Not mentioning the giant sword weapon to your partner until it is narratively necessary? You are thinking too much… hey look, giant monster guts! An EMP shutting down parts of a city, but the streetlights are still on? Ok, well that’s just dumb.
My point is that this might be the ultimate suspension of disbelief movie, on par with professional wrestling or a presidential debate. It is one of those where to enjoy it, you have to tone down that critical thinking part of your brain, and just let the art wash over you.
Yeah, I enjoyed this movie. I saw in on one of those giant 80’ movie screens and I am so happy I did. If you like this type of thing, and you can turn off that logic critic, go see this movie. Do not wait for it to be streamed somewhere, unless you happen to have access to a giant screen of your own. This movie will not move your emotions, tell you anything about the human condition, or even make you like any of the characters. It will give you the thrill of giant robots flinging giant monsters around a big wet neon infused city though, and if that isn’t entertainment I don’t know what is.