Pacific Rim (3 1/2 out 5 Stars)
Directed by Guillermo del Torro (Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy II: The Golden Army)
Written by Travis Beachum (Clash of the Titans), and Guillermo del Torro (Pan's Labyrinth)
Starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Charlie Day, and Rinko Kikuchi
I went in blind on this film, reading no trailers or reviews prior to seeing the film. There was never even a Pacific Rim trailer in front of any of the summer blockbusters I have seen, may be why it's going to end up number two at the box office this weekend. I knew the basic premise, and had heard about the buzz from last year's Comic Con, but never investigated. I often like going in blind with films like this, it tends to lower expectations, and allow you to prepare for many different interesting experiences.
The film starts with the concept that most people believe that when aliens would come to Earth they would come from outer space. In this film a portal has opened within the Pacific ocean letting the Kaiju through, and they first attack San Francisco. The first alien is defeated but it takes, days, this process continues until human create Jeagers, which are giant robots piloted, or run by two humans. As the the Kaiju keep hitting the Earth, the worlds leaders work toward building a wall to prevent them from attacking. Former pilots including Stacker (Elba) Raleigh (Hunnam), and others go rogue in order to use the Jaegers for one last effort to to destroy the portal and save Earth.
What doesn't sound fun about this film? I guess if you any form of science fiction this was never your cup of tea either way, but if you enjoy the genre and the material it resembles, you will enjoy this film. Guillermo del Torro has one of the most creative imaginations, his film Pan's Labyrinth is still one of the best films within the 2000s. Del Torro also brought an interestingly dark graphic novel character, Hellboy to life, which is still the best series based on a non-traditional comic book hero. Del Torro knows how to work to create films which stretch the imagination. Rim feels like a wink and a nod to sci-fi fans, but also a fun film. Del Torro is a master at blending these elements within his films, and he succeeds on this effort here.
While the film is fun, do not think to deep about the plot. The script is incredibly weak, the dialogue is bad, and there seems to be a lot of poorly constructed characters, but there is just enough character development for this to be passable. The script and story were written by Travis Beachum whose first major "blockbuster" was the tragic remake of Clash of the Titans. Beachum's work along side del Torro has elements of Power Rangers, Avatar, and so on, the script is lacking originality, but again as I said in my earlier review of Oblivion, what sci-fi film doesn't borrow to make the better recipe.
While the script is a bit weak, I must say props to this duo for creating one of the best action heroines within a film. Mako Mori (Kikuchi) is a trainee with the pilots; she is also the surrogate daughter of Stacker who runs the pilot program. Kikuchi was an Oscar nominee for the film Babel back in 2006; she lost to Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls. In this film she is the most fully developed character, and gets to show just how great an actress she is, though her vulnerability in reliving past painful memories, but also showing her strength. Ryan Adams stated Mako Mori is up there with Alice Ripley from the Alien film series and I have to agree; she is badass.
The rest of the cast is fine, Hunnam proves he has "leading man" quality, but he has done that for many seasons on Sons of Anarchy. Elba proves he is so charismatic, and like when he was on The Office playing Charles there is something magnetic, which draw you to any character he plays. There is a fun cameo from a regular player within the del Torro world, which I will not spoil. I will say I find Charlie Day annoying in everything he does, and he doesn't change that here. Burn Gorman who play the scientist Gottlieb has to be the most annoying character in the film, I do not understand why del Torro took the character in this direction, it felt cliche.
While the script was not perfect, and the film is not re-inventing the wheel, the action is cool, and the visual effects were some of the best I have seen. This film should have an easy lock on a win in that category come Oscar time. These visual effects are stunning, and feel life like. Beyond the visual nature the film is a worth while fun experience, that should not be missed.