FILM REVIEW: Pacific Rim


An inter-dimensional breach deep in the Pacific Ocean has led to huge monsters, nicknamed Kaiju, to wreak havoc on the human race. In response, we build Jaegers, giant mechanised warriors operated by two pilots to do battle with the Kaiju. As the attacks keep coming and the situation gets desperate, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) brings back a disgraced pilot, Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam) to help him with the few remaining Jaegers he has left. 

A film from Guillermo del Toro is always going to be visually arresting and right from the first trailer, Pacific Rim has never looked like bucking the trend. The film's excellent viral campaign has been building this world for us for months now and that meticulous attention to detail makes Pacific Rim totally immersive. From small details like pin-up paintings on the side of a Jaeger to city architecture building around Kaiju skeletons, every aspect of this ravaged earth feels authentic with a weight and a history behind it. There is also the multicultural aspect that del Toro has created, blending cultures and people together to create a vision of humanity pulling together against a common enemy.

It is a real shame then that the same level of attention hasn't been paid to achieving some sort of gender balance with the characters seen. Yes, one of the best characters in the film is female (and we'll get to the awesome Mako Mori soon), but there are very little female faces elsewhere. In fact, there is just one other female speaking role and she doesn't really carry any screen time. Many of the other minor roles aren't gender specific and it doesn't really make a lick of sense why, when a fair amount of countries are represented, the same can't be said for the women of this battered earth. It's been a bad year for female characters in blockbusters and sadly, Pacific Rim has done nothing to buck that trend. 

It also doesn't help that the characters are thinly drawn and barely extend beyond their particular archetype. Somehow though, this sort of works and it helps that most of the cast lend a certain credibility to the clunkier aspects of the script. Elba brings a gravitas to his role as the impressively monikered Stacker Pentecost and is clearly destined for more roles of the authoritative variety, giving Pentecost a weariness that plays well into the decaying world around him. Even Robert Kazinksy as the Iceman substitute, Chuck, whilst cartoonish, manages to add a little more drama to the human focused scenes and his relationship with father Herc (Max Martini) provides another emotional dimension to the proceedings.

The light relief of Charlie Day and Burn Gorman's exposition characters can get a bit wearing, especially as Day seems to operate on a permanently SHOUTY level, but they have a couple of funny moments between them and allows for a Ron Perlman appearance to boot. Kikuchi meanwhile is the character granted the biggest arc (though that's not saying much) as Mako Mori, an intriguing mix of vengeance and ambition. She's easily the best thing in the film and it's refreshing to see a female character not simply there just to facilitate the hero's development or just strip unexpectedly down to her pants.


Pacific Rim does not, however, have a convincing lead. Charlie Hunnam certainly looks the part and there are plenty of shirtless moments for girls and guys who are so inclined to have a cheeky gape at. But a well defined set of abs does not a leading man make. Lacking in the charisma that is usually mandatory for this kind of disgraced former genius pilot role, Hunnam is seemingly incapable of varying his line delivery and proves to be a bit of a vacuum at the centre of the film when he should have been the heart. It's also a shame that his relationship with Mako is never really developed, especially considering they are supposed to be mentally compatible enough to pilot Gipsy Danger. Nevertheless, the film does just enough to make sure that you care and it's the first film in a long time where they actually feel in genuine peril for at least the final act.

From the moment the first trailer punched its way on to the internet, Pacific Rim promised huge, bone-crunching action and it really delivers. The CGI used to create the Jaegers and the Kaiju is simply fantastic, a real testament to its quality in an age when all special effects are scrutinised heavily. Both adversaries move with a credible weight, making a visible impact on the locations even when they aren't smashing into buildings and bridges. The sequences are frenetic and largely, it's possible to discern what's happening, but there are occasions when the shots are badly lit or the camera moving at such a pace that it's best to just sit back and wait for the audio to let you know what's happening.

Despite these gripes, Pacific Rim is actually just a huge amount of fun from start to finish and for that reason, it gets away with having a less than stellar script, mostly one-note characters and the odd shaky-cam faux pas. It's a film that is just happy to be a loud, live-action cartoon of many a childhood fantasy and as someone who grew up watching Power Rangers, the action sequences here are what those episodes with the Megazord always promised but could never quite deliver. For that alone, I loved it.


****


- Becky

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