Pacific Rim Movie Review
When you have a sword, use a sword. When you have a ray-blasting weapon, use a ray-blasting weapon. But for God's sake, why oh why would you try to defeat city-destroying mutant monsters from another universe with only your fists? That's just one of the many ridiculous things in the ridiculous Pacific Rim, a mildly entertaining but surprisingly mediocre effort from director Guillermo del Toro.
In the $180 million-budgeted Pacific Rim, giant sea creatures have emerged from the depths to wreak havoc on Earth. Humanity has fought back by making giant Transformers - manned by two pilots whose brains are somehow connected - that can duke it out with these seemingly invincible creatures. For some unexplained and obnoxious reason, they like to resort to punching the monsters rather than use other, more effective weapons.
The movie hints at more complex ideas - the merging of minds, an alien threat that is more intelligent and sinister than mere rampaging monsters - but del Toro pulls back at every opportunity, resorting to a straightforward and frankly uninteresting story filled with CGI-laden sequences and poorly written characters. For such an imaginative director, Pacific Rim appears as though he phoned it in, and sadly, the parts that do feel like they are out of del Toro's playbook seem out of place in such a big-budgeted project.
From a storytelling perspective, del Toro skips the most interesting stuff and basically goes right to the final battle - by the time the opening monologue is done, years have passed since the creatures first laid waste to cities and humans have developed their robot fighting machines. There is no sense of awe when it comes to the monsters or the fighting machines, because the characters are so jaded and devoid of hope they no longer care. Pacific Rim feels like the end of a trilogy, not the beginning of one.
It doesn't help that the characters aren't at all interesting. Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) loses his brother early on but is drawn back into the fight as Earth's last hope. The movie hints that he is going to be unable to get over his brother's death, but then that character arc is dropped entirely. He is teamed with a woman named Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), who has her own dark past that is also ignored once the going gets tough; she is also set up as a love interest, but her chemistry with Hunnam is nonexistent. Idris Elba plays a tough-talking commander who is more a caricature than a real person, and Charlie Day and Burn Gorman's greatest accomplishment is making me want to punch them both in the face many times over.
Hunnam, sadly, is the only actor who holds his own.
But all that aside, Pacific Rim is a summer blockbuster. Bloated, sometimes incoherent and poorly written, but a summer blockbuster nonetheless. Some moviegoers will enjoy the movie and be able to look past its shortcomings, even though the first half is pretty slow and boring. The movie does have some good action scenes and, perhaps because there are people inside the fighting robots, del Toro manages to keep things tense even though you're essentially just watching a bunch of CGI things smash pixels into one another for long stretches of time.
Still, Pacific Rim is a compelling idea wasted with a poor screenplay and misguided storytelling. If I were del Toro, I'd stay away from these massive blockbusters; he's much better when telling more intimate and personal stories anyway.
And again, what's with the swords? They work so well... it really doesn't make sense why the fighting robots wouldn't use them all the time.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.