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USA 2013
Directed by
Guillermo Del Toro
131 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
4 stars

Pacific Rim

Synopsis: From a fissure deep in the Pacific Ocean, Kaijus, giant monsters from another dimension attack Earth. Jagers, giant robots controlled by two pilots in a psychic link, fight them off. But they’re losing.

Pacific Rim ends with a dedication to Ray Harryhausen and Ishiro Honda, two men who did more for monster movies in the 20th century than anyone else I can think of. Honda might not be as familiar to most as Harryhausen, but he directed Godzilla, Rodan, and a host of other giant-beasts-destroy-cities films. It’s this legacy that Del Toro taps for what might be the most expensive personal film to date, a love letter to Japanese monster and mecha movies.

That said, this is a review rather than a history lesson, so what about the film itself? It’s stupid. But it also doesn’t care. After all, this is a story where a fissure between dimensions is identified and rather than contain the invasion point with mines and nukes and all kinds of defenses, the powers-that-be build skyscraper-sized nuclear powered robots to fight the monsters in heavily populated cities. There wouldn’t be much of film if it wasn’t going to go the stupid option. But when you know you’re being silly, there’s a license to have fun, and that’s what Pacific Rim does.

Performance-wise, Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket is solid as a generally nice guy, but he’s a pretty bland character. Why exactly Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentecost sees him as vital to the war effort isn’t entirely clear, nor is the strange fascination Rinko Kikuchi’s Mako Mori has with him (maybe it’s his rippling abs?) although I do give Del Toro a lot of credit for avoiding the direct romance option between the two. Far more successful are Charlie Day as the kaiju-obsessed scientist, Dr Newton Geiszler and Ron Perlman as the black market trader, Hannibal Chau. The explanation for Hannibal’s name is priceless and it’s with these characters that the film most successfully winks at the audience. Early on there’s also a not-so-subtle dig at the plan to build a wall to stop illegal immigration from Mexico to the US.

But really, the story is there to justify epic battle sequences. The moment Gipsy Danger, the robot piloted by Raleigh and Mako, drops into Hong Kong harbour, that’s when all gripes about the story and characters fade away. Yes it sometimes doesn’t even track logically within its own universe but damn if the next twenty minutes won’t leave the 10 year old inside you ecstatic that someone was willing to front the money to make this happen. Spectacle cinema is something that’s received a bad rap of late, with Michael Bay trashing it with the tedium of the last two Transformers films, but Pacific Rim may restore its good name a little. There’s nothing wrong with big dumb fun as long as it’s actually fun. This is really, really fun. That is if the idea of a giant robot using a supertanker as a baseball bat to beat up a giant lizard appeals to you.

I have a lot of gripes about Pacific Rim but I also plan to buy the bluray and wear it out. There’s a purity of vision at its heart. It’s a film about giant robots fighting giant monsters, made with unadulterated love for the material, and it’s infectious.




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