The latest from remarkable director Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy), this film sees Earth under siege from Kaiju, great beasts that have risen from a dimensional rift at the bottom of the ocean to wreak havoc upon our unsuspecting populace. In response, the governments of the world pooled their resources to create the Jaegers, robots so massive that they require two people to pilot them through a process known as the Drift, a mental bridge that links the conscious and subconscious minds of the pilots.
Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam, Sons of Anarchy), a young man who—having retired from being a Jaeger pilot after the loss of his copilot and brother, Yancy, to a Kaiju—is contacted by his former commander, Marshall Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), who has sought the former pilot for one last mission, a secret plan to bring an end to the Kaiju siege once and for all using the last of the long-discontinued Jaeger mechs in existence, all stationed in Hong Kong. Raleigh is paired with Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), a young and inexperienced pilot with fire in her heart and demons plaguing her memory.
So begins one of the most entertaining and awe-inspiring stories of the summer.
If Jaeger pilots are rock stars, then Pacific Rim is the biggest and best concert film of this or any other century. Concert films aside, Pacific Rim, written by del Toro and Travis Beacham and also featuring Charlie Day and Ron Pearlman, is an explosion of so many different things at once that it all comes together to form one passionate powerhouse of a film.
The best way to sum up everything good about Pacific Rim is this: it has heart. This isn’t like most other explosion-heavy blockbusters, devoid of any meaning beyond smashing and crashing. Beneath the shell of this beautiful behemoth beats a loud, powerful, genuine heart. You can feel the soul of this project in every aspect of the movie; the passion poured into this piece is palpable across the board.
Guillermo del Toro approaches the idea of giant robots fighting giant monsters with the wonder and mysticism of a child turning on the television and discovering Godzilla or one of the countless Super Robot anime in existence. Del Toro has stated in interviews that one of his goals with this film was to introduce the kaiju and mecha genres to a new generation of filmgoers, and as an introduction to those kinds of genres, he succeeds in capturing all the spectacle and grandeur of both without sacrificing the humans in this picture.
Does the story leave something to be desired? This, so far, has been the biggest complaint from many critics (for those who were complaining about image quality and darkness/murkiness of image, I have to say that my screen looked bright and vibrant, and I could see everything. You may want to speak to your projectionist or try a different screen at a different theater). The story, admittedly, is pretty basic: washed-up Insert-Profession-Here is recruited by Old-Friend for One-Last-Mission, and he’s teamed up with Nervous-Rookie to go save the world. Yes, yes, it’s a story we’ve all heard before.
But the way that story is told here is not only different from what most Western audiences have seen, but it’s executed in a terrific fashion. It’s big and campy and overcharged and, most importantly, fun. You care about the Jaeger pilots, you want them to succeed, you stare in horror when things look their worst, and you cheer when they look their best. The heart of del Toro beats loud and proud in the core of each Jaeger, and while the story may not have been the best, the way it was told was accomplished better than any other Western giant robot film I’ve ever seen.
Pacific Rim has earned its place in the mecha and kaiju genres.