Director: Guillermo del Toro Writers: Travis Beacham, Guillermo del Toro Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi Runtime: 132 min Rating: PG
Amidst a barrage of action-packed summer blockbusters, a movie pitting monsters against machines in a battle for the survival of humanity must offer something new in order to stand out. Although Pacific Rim tries to include a human element in its story, the attempt is unfortunately not enough to give heart to a movie primarily focused on the visual aspects of battle sequences.
Pacific Rim is set in a world facing the apocalypse as massive sea creatures known as Kaiju begin attacking human cities. To defend our race, the giant robots Jaegers are created; these weapons are controlled by two pilots whose minds are connected to share thoughts and memories. As a last resort, former pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and female rookie Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) team up in a desperate attempt to close the access portal used by the monsters.
Director Guillermo del Toro has attempted to create a stylized monster movie, and the visuals never fail to be grand. The 3D is done well, so that it is nearly unnoticeable; one wonders if we have become so accustomed to this technique that future action movies may appear flat without it. An audience can watch only so many fight sequences between giant sea monsters and robots, however. Without a fighting human to latch onto, the sequences become monotonous and even uninteresting. When monster movies pit an animal, alien, or once-human creature against an individual, the gravity of the event is visually apparent and one cannot lose sight of the immediate danger that the character is in. Although del Toro attempts to add a human aspect by placing pilots inside and in control of the Jaegers, the battles remain unrelatable; iron machines clunk against computer generated sea monsters, and the result is at times confusing and often tiring.
The humans themselves are not particularly interesting or relatable, due to wooden acting, clichéd dialogue, and a bland storyline. A forced romantic subplot rings false and obvious, and a tragic event intended to provide the audience with an emotional connection to protagonist Raleigh occurs too early to have any effect. One successful subplot features the passionate researcher Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day), who believes it to be possible and advantageous to connect with the Kaiju in the way that the fighting pilots merge their minds. Day is exciting and engaging simply because, unlike the rest of the film, he does not take himself too seriously. A successfully creepy gothic scene wherein this doctor is tracked underground reminds one of del Toro’s ability to create suspense and manipulate mood, until the moment is ruined by the appearance of the generic monster once again.
This movie fails when it forgets to root itself in the human. We can only care about monsters killing people if we care about the people themselves first, and without an engaging story and solid characters portrayed through great acting, this is not possible. Although del Toro creates grand visuals, they are not related back to real people. Unfortunately, Pacific Rim does not have anything new to offer to the monster-versus-machine genre.