Pacifc Rim

Five years after Guillermo Del Toro’s last directed picture, Hellboy 2, the famed sci-fi loving artist finally returns to the big screen with his biggest movie yet. The highly anticipated Pacific Rim sets up a silly yet original story perfect for the high adrenaline summer season.

In the near future, giant beast -like aliens called Kaiju emerge from the Pacific Ocean from a hidden portal wreaking havoc on earth. After numerous failed attempts at killing the creatures, the humans’ best and brightest create enormous deadly robots called Yaegers that are controlled by two pilots to battle the creatures. However, the two pilots must share compatibility through each other’s controlled unconsciousness to operate the Yaegers.  Once the Yaegers prove to be a success, the pilots become celebrities and the human race seems to be saved. But the people become too confident. This is all too evident when a young hot shot pilot named Raleigh (played by Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam) loses his co-pilot after a devastating loss to a Kaiju. Turns out the Kaiju were saving their best beasts for last and are once again defeating the human race.

Five years later, living as a drifter, Raleigh’s old captain, Stacker Pentecost (Luther’s Idris Elba) reunites with Raleigh asking to enlist him as a Yaeger pilot again. Realizing the Yaegers are the only hope against the end of the world, Raleigh agrees. In an operations facility in Hong Kong, Pentecost and his team of engineers, scientists, and pilots are preparing to begin a new phase for the Yaeger program. Leading the engineering program is a brilliant young woman Mako Mori (Babel’s Rincko Kikuchi). She and Raleigh have an instant bond. Their relationship stands somewhere between Star Wars’ Hans Solo/Princess Leia and The Terminators’ Kyle Resse/Sarah Connor.  The rest of the cast include brainy comedic relief scientists played by Always Sunny in Philadelphias’ Charlie Day and Revenge’s Burn Gorman and tough guy pilot played by True Blood’s Robert Kazinsky. But the scene stealing role goes to actor Ron Pearlman as an alien organs smuggler.

With the cast and story set, the real fun begins when the monsters come to battle. As the film progresses, the battle sequences get bigger as do the monsters. It’s almost like a video game, in which after you defeat every beast a bigger more ferocious one emerges for the next level.  Each sequence goes back and forth from the actual battle to inside the Yaeger with the pilots maneuvering the machine. Of course each character has their secret purpose for being there, whether it’s for revenge, hopelessness, or simple courage.

The movie is indeed an all out geek fest for anybody wanting to see giant robots and monsters fight. Your inner child will love it as long as you get over the ludicrous idea of it all. And you mostly do because the movie takes itself very seriously about its monsters. While much of it is light-hearted popcorn fun, people do die and it can become very grim.

And let’s be honest, most of the people attending the movie are there to watch the battle sequences. Its how Michael Bay still gets seats into his movies. Many will compare this to Transformers, but there is much more subtlety and heart within this creature feature. But yes, the action sequences are huge and loud and exciting. While the Kaijus have some killer designs, most protruding a curious florescent blue glow similar to the creatures of the brilliant Attack the Block, the Yaegers have most of the fun with weapons even the Power Rangers would be jealous of: missiles, nuclear blasts, and yes, even swords.

It’s sometimes campy fun, but it’s not just for fan boys. Del Toro does such a skilled job of combining so many genres that you’re absolutely convinced this guy is a die-hard fan of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. You can see the ideas of Godzilla, the design of Blade Runner, and even the complexity of Inception. Everything feels so fresh and new, even if we feel like we’ve seen it all before.

Still, even among the oddness and creativity, the film’s storytelling defiantly ventures into vanilla territory. While Charlie Hunnam is fine as the lead, his traditional good guy role gets a bit lost in the array of colorful characters. We’ve seen this story a million times, and we can see it play out all the way to the end. We have the no nonsense captain, the strong willed female love interest, and the kooky sidekicks–and even silly lines that seem ripped from a James Cameron script: “I’ve spent so much time living in the past, I never really thought about living in the future.” Commence eye roll.

Some of the mind melding sequences that each pilot must encounter, becomes a bit convoluted when at the end of the day is just a device for exposition.  And while the battle sequences are executed with great detail, one wishes maybe not all battles happened in the water or rain. In fact, all of them do.

But what we have here is a fantastic, exciting original film created by a master filmmaker. While it’s never as engaging as Del Toro’s masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth, it’s his most ambitious and exciting film. It’s a fun movie where there is never a dull moment. The movie is tailor-made for anybody who played with action figures growing up. Never forgetting there is a story and heart front and center, Pacific Rim proves to be one of the best movies of the summer.