Pacific Rim Review
Del Toro finally gives fans of two iconic genres the film they've been waiting for!
Almost two years ago, early photos and rumors were leaked about a new monster movie, with creatures called Kaijus. To add to that ferver, humans would fight these kaiju by piloting Giant Robots. Since the premise of this type of film had never been developed by western studios, this news started a major following in the mech and kaiju eiga communities. This week, the anticipation was finally over with the premier of Pacific Rim.
The story of Pacific Rim takes place in the near future when a "rift" in dimensions opens up on the Pacific floor. Large monsters called Kaiju are released from this fissure and wreak havoc on mankind.
Unable to beat them continuously with conventional weapons, the nations of the world united their resources to develop the Jaeger program. Jaegers, which are giant robots controlled by multiple pilots who are mentally synched with each other, successfully defeat the Kaiju onslaught during the early part of the invasion.
However, as the years progressed in the abtly dubbed "Kaiju War", the monsters adapted to their mechanical foes and eventually wiped out the Jaegers faster than the nations could build them. With government funding comprimised, the Jaeger commander (marvelously played by Idris Elba) eventually made one last bid to take the war back to the kaijus. The remenants of the best Jaeger pilots were assembled for one last daring mission.
So far the film has not only gained the respect of fans, but also of some of the anime industry's more reknown designers such as Nagai, Kojima and Sadamoto. If the members of this list and other mech related forums aren't already aware, Guillermo Del Toro, the director of Pacific Rim, is an avid fan of both mech and kaiju films alike. So much so, it was his decision to call the monsters kaijus thus paying proper homage to the Japanese film genre.
That said, the mech side of this film was certainly not to be overlooked. Del Toro went out and found artists who specifically grew up watching the Super Robot and other mech related franchises.
He explictly instructed them to never mention a specific series or mech as inspiration for the Jaegers they create, rather pull characteristics from their favorite designs anonymously. For people who have watched these shows over the years, this aspect alone turns out to be one of the true gems of the film!
You could literally spend half of the film calling out which designer or series influenced the appearance and/or function of the piloting suits, the mechs, and other technology featured. Homage is given to series the likes of Getter Robo, Dougram, Gaiking, Raxephon, Evangelion, and even a nod to Mazinger Z's trademark "Rocket Punch".
Some of the fights featuring the mech, Gypsy Danger, even call to mind aspects of the more gruesome tactics employed by Mechander Robo. For the Kaiju fans, there are some great scenes remeniscent of Kaneko's Gamera triology, as well as the Godzilla Millenium series.
For those who are skeptical of seeing this film soley on the premise that it ripped off other famous mech series, rest assured that it absolutely balanced it's homage to the genre without ripping off any specific franchise. Actually, the only "too familiar" aspect of this film that bothered me was the plot's similarity to Independance Day in a few scenes.
As much as I enjoyed the film, I do need to point out the minor opportunities for improvement. If there were any shortcomings to this movie, it would be the lack of potentially interesting side character development.
It also appears that additional backstory and editing were possibly left out for the sake of screen time. Given the subject matter, this film will have varied appeal to three distinct categories of fan: Character driven, Mech/Monster driven, and the "Balance of Both" crowd.
If you're mech/monster driven only, you'll walk away from this film as being probably the single best movie you've ever seen. Pacific Rim has no shortage of incredible fights, epics sets, menacing kaiju, and awesome old school pointless ways to enter a giant robot.
If you're character driven, you'll have some gripes with the movie. By no surprise, Del Toro and Co. were so focused on the epic battles, cool designs, etc. that some of the potentially interesting side characters took a hit as a result. I can't say how much of this fell on Del Toro as oppossed to the powers that be at Legendary and WB, who may have had it edited down to save time.
The remaining 4 Jaeger teams were from 4 different countries: Austrialia, China, Russia, and the US. The Australia and US teams were really featured the most. However, it would have been awesome to see the character development of the Russian and Chinese pilots as well.
Regardless of how cool the mechs are, it's the pilots your really vested in. If the Russian and Chinese teams had the proper character development and backstory, their fights and resolution in the film would have been considerably more engrossing. Instead, they were reduced to just subtle footnotes in the film overall.
Regarding the film's strengths, it is probably the best film this summer. Despite it's minor shortcomings, the main characters are entertaining with strong chemistry between them. Also, the film's pace never leaves the audience with a gap or lull in story. Del Toro and his creative staff have successfully made what every Godzilla loving, Giant Robot watching fan has wanted to see in a big screen extravaganza.
If successfull in the box office, Pacific Rim has the potential of putting the spotlight on other similar projects that have lingered in production limbo for years. It could also help usher in a long since dormant form of film entertainment not seen since the late 60's, when American audiences rushed to theaters to see the imported films of Toho's golden age of sci-fi.
As with any of his films, Del Toro doesn't disappoint in design, pace, or sets. If you grew up watching the older Super Robot series, you'll remember the giant hangers and scaffolds around these massive mechs, and swarms of techs assisting with their maintenence.
In even the finest details down to the eccentric scientists who help with the cause, there are welcomed echoes of past great series. While watching the film, you'll find yourself going from the classic hanger/base environment of the 70's to the very 80's Dougram designs and fashion of mech deployment. Then, onward to the 90's signature Eva-inspired pilot entry and finally the visions of various mech strongholds and tech of the 2000's.
By the end of the film, you realize, not only did Del Toro give fans the fights they've always wanted, but also managed to successfully represent 40 years of mech trends, combat, and designs in just over two hours of film.
I would earnestly encourage you to support the genre by checking out this film while it's in theaters. The worst thing I can really say about Pacific Rim is that I wish it had been longer. Hopefully, the Blu ray release will resolve that with a Director's Cut of epic proportion.
That said, in a recent run of grim and overly serious summer blockbusters, it's the kind of campy fun that's been sadly lacking in cinemas of late. And remember, if you don't support this movie, it sends two messages to Hollywood... Giant Robot/Giant Monster flicks don't sell and appearently only Michael Bay creates money making robot films. Do you really want another Transformers sequel?
Also, one last item... stay thru all the end credits. The film is dedicated to two of the most significant individuals of the kaiju genre and I praise the production staff for doing so.
Images may be subject to copyright. Pacific Rim is the property of Lengendary Pictures and Warner Bros Pictures