“Pacific Rim” is about as good as can be expected from a summer superblockbuster. Movies like this often look appealing in the trailer but are often forgettable and at worst, as is the case with superblockbuster guru Michael Bay, excruciating to watch. The most regrettable thing about these movies is that, whether sufficiently entertaining or not, there’s nothing to take away from the theatre. “Pacific Rim” is such a sufficiently entertaining movie.
The movie seems to be the brainchild of someone who thought it would be cool to see the bots from “Transformers” fight the monsters from Godzilla. Giant monsters erupt from the bottom of the ocean, passing from another dimension into earth through what is described as a “throat,” but looks more like a giant vagina. Giant robots, modeled after the human form are constructed and dropped at monster sightings for often very destructive fist fights. It’s unclear why the hands would be the primary weapons; stabbing weapons (which some of the bots are equipped with but reluctant to use) seem like the natural choice for hand-to-hand monster fighting.
The action scenes are exciting and are photographed well. There is a tendency for recent action movies to be confusing in terms of the spatial relation between the camera and what it captures. This is at its worst in the form of the shaky cam. Fortunately, “Pacific Rim” avoids this. And, with the exception of a scene where a freight boat is used as a weapon, avoids the problem of inconsistent scale that plagued the “Transformers” sequels.
There is also a good score by Ramin Djawadi, who scored the TV series “Game of Thrones” and “Prison Break.” It’s an exciting score and it captures a hint of the kind of excitement associated with childhood adventure and magic. Since this movie is essentially a childhood fantasy about playing with toys transported into the adult world, the score seems very appropriate.
While the action scenes are satisfying everything else is just filler until the next fight. Lots of time is devoted to behind the scenes conflicts. There are a variety of interpersonal conflicts and personal issues to be resolved. These include a character who doubts his abilities after a mission goes wrong, an overprotective father whose care for his daughter is preventing her from achieving her full potential, a bravado solider that lives for nothing else but to annoy the more likeable characters. This is all cliché stuff and isn’t very interesting. All the robot pilots live in an underground bunker so these things exist within a microcosm. Yet, this is a worldwide war between humans and monsters. We learn that the robot program is being deactivated, so these pilots are more or less running a rogue operation. Yet, as far as we can tell, there is no other kind of monster defense anywhere on earth.
There is an interesting concept in regards to the piloting of the robots. They are too sophisticated for any one person to handle, so they require two pilots whose brains are synchronized by computer. So all brainpower including thoughts and memories are combined into one more powerful brain. It’s a romantic idea in the sense that these pilots have such an intimate connection to one another. This “neural handshake” is frequently referred to, and plays an important role in the plot, but the movie misses the opportunity to dramatize the human possibilities and consequences of the technology.
The movie is directed Guillermo de Toro, whose Mexican horror movies “Cronos” and “The Devil’s Backbone” captured the attention of critics. In the late ‘90’s he made his Hollywood debut with “Mimic,” which he disowns, claiming his original vision was filtered through the Hollywood machine too many times. He said he would never work in that town again. Now, with “Pacific Rim” he’s made a broad, market friendly movie, the kind that epitomizes what he once claimed he disliked about Hollywood. I wonder what made him change his mind?
*** (out of 5)
David Jackson can be reached at email@example.com