Movie Review: ‘Pacific Rim’
“Pacific Rim” is a movie about giants, made for adolescent boys, and that’s not exactly a put-down. Adolescent boys need stories, too! Stories about giants are a thing.
Most men, women would agree, have an inner adolescent boy that’s alive and kicking. The collective movie-going inner and actual adolescent boys everywhere will sit in “Pacific Rim” and say “Holy Cow!” “Dude!” and “OMG!” every 15 seconds. Make that 10 seconds.
Mythology is rife with giants. There are Greek Titans, Norse Jotuns, a race of giant humans that went extinct, Cyclops, Bigfoot, and the Abominable Snowman. Which giant myth does “Pacific Rim” tap? Let us think about that. We’ll get back to you at the end of this review.
Since so many movies coming out these days are about the Apocalypse, half of these giants would appear to be apocalyptic demons. All the movies that are not about the Apocalypse these days are about giant Transformers. (We submit that Iron Man is a kind of Transformer.) Finally, the twain shall meet.
Well it’s 2015, and Kaijus start coming out of the ocean because there’s a portal to another dimension down there. Kaiju means “giant monster” in Japanese. Name a famous Kaiju! Godzilla, duh. The Kaijus don’t appear to be happy. They come up here and smash everything. It’s as if the Hulk had some giant pet lizards.
What to do? Get some very large weapons. The world’s people build massive Jaeger robots. (Jaeger means “hunter” in German.) Godzilla meets Optimus Prime! Except, as mentioned, way bigger. With cool call signs!
Now, the way you drive these big bots is that you gotta have two pilots, each one controlling a left and a right side of the big bot brain. And the only way you can do that is if the pilots form a neural handshake, nicknamed The Drift, a mind-meld. It is akin to the “ghosting” of that other apocalyptic movie, “After Earth.” Probably, The Drift is just meditation with a cooler call sign.
So anyway, the Kaijus are smashing cities and winning. Gotta bring in an ace! Which ace? Down-and-out former bot-fighter Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam). Raleigh and his bro were the baddest bot-slingers in the West till his bro got killed. Raleigh was there! Ah, the wracking guilt! Scarred for life! So he’s working construction.
That is, until commander Stacker Pentecost, played by Idris Elba, comes groovin’ up slowly. “He got joo-joo eyeball, he one holy roller.” (That’s a Beatles lyric.)
He wants Raleigh to saddle up his old analog (as opposed to digital) Jaeger, Gipsy Danger, with co-pilot Mako (Rinko Kikuchi). Raleigh and his brother used to be the best, but Mako’s got some inner demons to overcome herself, and so the fusion of the couple’s traumatic pasts fire up the baddest Jaeger team ever! Ya! OMG!
There’s some side action in the form of other pilot stories, Ron Perlman as Hannibal Chau (the black-market seller of demon body parts), and two nutty-nerdy scientists for comic relief.
What do we need comic relief from? From the action. Two hours of this is like sitting on a tenement stoop, while someone smashes all the garbage cans with a sledgehammer, and every 10 seconds a firetruck roars by with the crew leaning on the air horn, followed by cop cars on full siren. Fourteen-year-olds will love this movie. Adults will be exhausted.
Hunnam’s the TV star of the hit series “Sons of Anarchy.” He’s got movie star potential. He’s not so real in this but that’s because “Sons of Anarchy” is very real, and “Pacific Rim” is very … digital. There are some excellent human-on-human fight scenes.
Apart from Elba giving a good St. Crispin’s Day type speech at the end (“Today we are canceling the apocalypse!”), it would seem that with “Pacific Rim” we’ve reached mega-maxed-out movie sensory overload. Where do we go from here? The theater management will back a firetruck into the movie theater and lean on the air horn while audience members sitting in the aisle seats beat on garbage cans with sledgehammers.
Oh wait—what kind of giant story is this? It’s the story of a giant adult headache! But the grin on your 14-year-old’s face will make it worthwhile.
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman, Rinko Kikuchi, Rob Kazinsky
Running Time: 2 hours, 11 minutes