Pacific Rim’ blends good storytelling with blockbuster action
Guillermo del Toro, the writer and director of surrealist/sci-fi films such as “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Hellboy” and “The Devil’s Backbone,” gives the world a work that’s one-part roller coaster and two-parts virtual simulation: “Pacific Rim.” Released July 12, his team of pseudo-stars such as Charlie Hunnam (“Sons of Anarchy,” “Children of Men”), Rinko Kikuchi (“Norwegian Wood,” “The Brothers Bloom”) Idris Elba (“The Wire”), and Ron Perlman (“Drive”), offers a monstrous heavyweight of a film weighing in at 131 minutes long which is as dynamic as it’s entertaining.
Sea monsters break through the tectonic plates of the earth and slide into the future from underneath, and humanity fights back with machines equally as powerful – giant robots called Jaegers. However, the aliens adapt faster than we know, and after the government pulls the plug, there’s little hope left.
Beneath the somewhat cheesy dialogue, overtly sacrificial ending and a melodrama that all seems a little too easy and convenient lies a connection from viewer to film that can only be explained through the “neural handshake” which the warriors inside the machines must complete. Controllers must literally share one hemisphere of their brains in order to control the Jaeger. They share their own thoughts and their own memories, their own fears and their own desires. Their bond results in two seemingly insignificant creatures with the force of an empire.
While this happens on the screen, so too does the movie become one with the audience. This is the closest we, as a society, have come to virtual reality. I can’t say for certain whether or not the film would hold up as well without IMAX or without 3-D, but I can say that director del Toro went to great lengths to offer a film as close to a first-person narrative as possible. Think “Avatar” fused with “Inception.” Think “Godzilla,” “King Kong” and “Transformers,” fueled by an innovation and a technology cinema is only beginning to explore.
If this film fails to do anything by being advertised as a “summer blockbuster hit” it’s that it doesn’t fail harder. That is to say the tiny asides that most of these sweaty, fast-paced action-sci-fi-thrillers intentionally ignore can all be found in the world that “Pacific Rim” creates. All the major characters have their own fully fleshed-out and completely understandable backstory. There’s a truly platonic chemistry between Raleigh Becket and Mako Mori, the two protagonists of the film, that moves beyond the cliched courtship plot and sexual attraction. The film doesn’t need it – the fluff wouldn’t fit. And perhaps the best, or most interesting, element to the story is the idiosyncratic details of a culture torn by a war that seems impossible to surmount. A world that refuses to give up, but instead adapts and continues to thrive even with the threat of extinction.
Here’s a little piece of advice. See it in IMAX 3-D. Don’t eat popcorn. And wait all the way through until the last credit has rolled. The writers include a little extra something. Trust me, it’s worth it. Although most serious critics won’t ever admit to liking something as big, weird and commercial as this, del Toro has produced a film that’s sure to have a cult following for years to come.
4 out of 5 doubloons
Ben Rader can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.