Pacific Rim (2013)

Prepare for spectacle!
Prepare for spectacle!

“Go big or go extinct.”

Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Starring Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi and Idris Elba

When huge monsters known as Kaiju emerge from an interdimensional rift in the floor of the Pacific Ocean, humanity unites to create a defence; colossal battle mechs called Jaegers, whose pilots become the new rock stars.

But as the war continues, the Kaiju get bigger, and funding is diverted to an ultimately flawed shield-wall programme. In one last act of desperation, the head of the Jaeger programme, Marshall Stacker Pentecost (Elba), assembles the last of the Jaegers and their pilots for a hail Mary strike at the Breach, including father and son team Herc and Chuck Hansen (Max Martini and Robert Kazinski); washed-up pilot Raleigh Beckett (Hunnam), who lost his brother in their last fight in the Jaeger Gipsy Danger; and Pentecost’s technically brilliant, but inexperienced foster daughter Mako Mori (Kikuchi).

As preparations are made, however, the R&D team make a series of worrying discoveries, and the strike becomes the last stand of humanity before extinction.

What’s wrong with it?

The science of Pacific Rim is dumb as rocks. It uses the terms ‘nuclear’ and ‘analogue’ as if they are supposed to be identical, and I don’t actually know what is supposed to be powering the digital Jaegers if not a reactor. I’m also not sure how Gipsy Danger, for all her apparently mechanical motion transfer technology, interfaces with her pilots’ brains without the use of electronics.

The characters are pretty broad, and conform to some pretty stereotypical national portrayals – stern British general, cocky Aussie, quiet American, stoic Japanese, heavyset Russians in their brutalist mech and the fancy kung-fu of the Chinese Jaeger crew.

The opening narration tells a lot that really ought to be shown.

What’s right with it?

The one advantage of the opening narration is that it basically serves to sell the setting: This is how it is; move on. It’s a pretty solid way of laying out that, yes, this is going to be silly, but bear with us.

In that vein, the ludicrous science becomes an awesome vehicle for madly over the top action, probably reaching its peak in the Hong Kong battle, when Gipsy Danger stalks towards a Kajiu carrying a tanker ship like a baseball bat.

The characters may be stereotypes, but not derogatory ones. They are all presented as convincing individuals, with nuances in the performance that are passed over in the writing. This continues into the attention given to the Jaegers and their various fighting styles.

The Jaegers have a real mass and presence to them; the fights are convincingly epic, and at the end of the film, when Gipsy Danger is limping onwards with a shredded leg and a missing arm, you feel that hard.

Mako Mori defies every pitfall trope to be the not-quite-love-interest and a character in her own right, with a believable bonding arc and ending not with a kiss but with a headbutt of love, showing a deep bond of respect and affection.

The guitar-driven, hard rocking soundtrack is awesome.

How bad is it really?

Oh my, it’s awesome. It is everything I wanted it to be, and a little bit more.

Best bit (if such there is)?

  • Super-tanker baseball bat!
  • “Today we are cancelling the apocalypse!”

What’s up with…?

  • Seriously; what do the digital Jaegers run on?
  • The Wall of Life? How was it ever seen as a good plan to oppose the ever more powerful Kaiju with a static defence? And what did they think they’d do then? Swim around the Pacific until they got bored?

Ratings

Production values – It’s the mechs vs. monster movie mech vs. monster fans have bee n waiting for. It’s gorgeous. If I have a complaint it’s that outside of some grainy flashback footage, the Kaiju only attack at night or deep in the ocean, so it’s all kind of dark. 3
Dialogue and performances – The dialogue isn’t the timeless stuff of Shakespeare, but it’s never wince inducing and the actors give it their all, even the ones with no lines. 5
Plot and execution – It’s a pretty paper-thin plot, but they don’t try to be any more and they play it with gusto. 4
Randomness – At one point Gipsy Danger grows a sword, apparently because it was needed. There’s a fair bit that is introduced for dramatic effect more than sense. 5
Waste of potential – Just… no. 0

Overall 17%

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