It’s pretty clear from looking at Pacific Rim that director Guillermo del Toro somehow how got his fill of Japanese pop culture – especially kaiju films. Kaiju is Japanese for “strange beast.”
However, the influence goes beyond Godzilla and extends to television imports that gained popularity during the late early ‘70s here.
For anyone in this age group (no, not telling what that group may be), Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot, which resembled a metallic refugee from ancient Egypt, and Ultraman were staples in reruns on a once great UHF station in the Cleveland area. They were hip, cool and fun. They also didn’t take themselves very seriously. Such was the case with Godzilla flicks – movies that I never gained an affinity – also.
In Pacific Rim, del Toro (Hellboy) takes elements of both and creates a film that flat out rocks. Yes, it’s silliness on screen, but it’s pure escapist fun. In short: this movie about man-made rock-‘em-sock-‘em robots packs a huge punch.
Del Toro succeeds in making an enjoyable summer popcorn flick, but he also makes an artistic statement by paying homage to the genre that spawned it. The cheese factor is there deliberately and del Toro has a lot of fun with it giving Rim much of its charm.
The over-the-top performances, the crazed mad scientist personified by Charlie Day (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), and of course the creatures.
But del Toro uses one huge difference to his advantage. He can replace the cheesy effects with state of the art action and the result proves exhilarating turning each robot-monster battle into the equivalent of a UFC cage match.
They’re fun, as realistic as anyone can envision and they are positively engrossing giving Rim the excitement a summer movie needs.
The fun comes from a cast that includes Day as one of those whack-a-doodle professors going to extreme lengths to get to know his adversary. And who are these beasties?
They’re giant battling monsters – a la Godzilla – who arrive on Earth via a rift in the Pacific Rim. They come. They see. They stomp. It’s simple for them, but as humans are known to do, they’re eventually able to fend them off with robots equal to their size – or so they believe.
The monsters eventually return bigger and badder than ever with the fleet of robots down to four and only a couple of them are state-of-the-art.
The leader of the robot program Stacker (Brit actor Idris Elba) recruits a washed-out robot pilot (Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) to return and pairs his with an inexperienced partner (Rinko Kikuchi) to run one of the ‘bots. It’s not difficult to predict where the film will go there.
Whether it’s enjoyable it’s all in execution. Del Toro does so admirably, but just as importantly his love of the source material shines through.
Pacific Rim is a creature feature that delivers action and fun.
Movie: Pacific Rim
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman
Studio: Warner Bros.
Rated: PG-13 (for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief language.)
Running time: 131 minutes
George’s rating: 3.5-of-5 stars
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com