Pacific Rim – 3/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

pacificPacific Rim – 3/5 – The ominous to the intrigue; this is the only kind of statement that comes to mind after a movie like this.   There are so many films out there, good and bad, that can hit an emotional chord or strike fear for nights to come.  Through it all, the one thing that always sparks the human mind is the travels into the unknown.  Del Toro is one of those directors that can do that, and he does it here.  A mastery of the imagination, he has crafted a film that perplexes both the senses and the mind.  It does this by shoving these things into a blockbuster appeal that is both grounded and entertaining.  Overall, with some predictable elements and over-the-top sequences, Pacific Rim is all you could ask for in a film of this sci-fi realm.

Premise:  It was a day, unlike any other, when monsters rose from the depths of the sea.  From this point, the world was in turmoil, until the people of earth decided to fight back.  As the war between humankind and the monstrous wages on, a former pilot and a trainee team up to drive an obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.

This movie is more about the action/story then the acting.  With that being said, there are decent actors in the roles that are in this movie.  In the ‘lead’ character role, we have Raleigh Becket, played by Charlie Hunnam.  In this role, he plays a person who is a veteran pilot of the huge machines.  We get a quick introduced to this man, who we see 5 years later (from the prologue) trying to reclaim his life after a tragic event.  He provides a stern, brass but calm individual, who knows his ins and outs when it comes to the monsters and giant mechs he pilots.  Opposite him in the machine is Mako Mori, played by Rinko Kikuchi.  A relatively unknown to American audiences, this Asian actress provides a great compliment and decent partner for Raleigh.  She is also the same kind of brass, strong soul as him, but she has an even more tragic event that sparks her reasons to be part of the program.  Here acting is up to par, but it isn’t anything to scream amazing over.  The chemistry between these two individuals are flawless, and you enjoy watching their relationship mature.  This is very important, because it helps create a strong bond within the mech.  The commanding officer of this program is Stacker Pentecost, played by Idris Elba.  Even in a blockbuster, this actor is very commanding, as well as charming with the simple dialogue.  Outside of the action sequences, his moments are both enduring and captivating.  He shows that even in a standard ‘cliché’ military-esque role, he can be a strong individual.  Outside of the main actors/actress, we have some interesting supporting cast that either play the frantic citizens, the black market dealers, more military-esque employees, or so forth.  Some of the notables are Charlie Day as Dr. Newton Geiszler and Ron Perlman as Hannibal Chau.  They are both wilding entertaining and overtly eccentric in this film.  At times, they come off cartoonish to a degree, but because of their wits to make the attentive funny, they are enjoyable to watch.

The direction of this film is flawless within its simplicity.  The basics of directing a film are all here:

Prologue > basic setup/build up > confliction > story revelations > climax > sequential ending

Even in the simplicity, Del Toro has a way of bringing his imaginative sense and combining it with a linear progression inside a big blockbuster.  That is a lot to swallow, but the movie moves at a steady pace where you’re both informed and entertained.  In the prologue, we are introduced to how the monsters got into this world.  There is a rift in the Pacific that they come out of, and these ‘kaiju’ relentlessly attack the human population.  Afterwards, the citizens of the world team up and build huge mechs known as ‘jaegers’ to battle these monsters.  These new battle suits help turn the tides, tile an event that happens with the main character ‘Raleigh’.  After this prologue, we are then fast forward 5 years later.  Raleigh has left the program, and is trying to live a solemn life.  He is then found by his former commander, as Pentecost brings him back for one last mission, to stop the Kaiju once and for all.  This is simple thread for a premise of the sci-fi genre, but the magic that is Del Toro helps bring the aura of surrealism to the forefront.  This is done with a combination of sweeping camera angles, creative display of scene moments from both the monsters and mechs, as well as the utter destructions of the cities.  Once the film begins, we get the explanation of how the robots work, and why they need two pilots.  Once we get this first explanation out of the way, we are then introduced how partners are matched.  We are given a glimpse of this as we see it in the first ‘martial art’ interaction between Raleigh and Mako.  Through ‘trial and error’ scenarios of the beginning, we witness how the ‘memories’ interact with the AI of the machines, and what happens if there isn’t a deep connection and ‘calibration’.  Once the exposition of the partnership, mechs and overall abilities are out of the way, we are thrown into the action, with the fight between the Jaegers and Kaiju in Hong Kong.  The exposition to this build up helps make the fights even more dire and amazing because the exposition is done in a way where it’s informative but inventive. Even in the tacky dialogue, the characters are witty, which is enough to make the Hong Kong sequence entertaining on a dreamlike scale.  Once we get in the thick of the action sequence, the fights are over-the-top, the destruction is massive, and the overall feel of a ‘blockbuster’ is in full force.  What is layered in it is the rich vision of a creative director; from the design to the sequence in and around the city, you are in awe of the work that comes to creating something bizarre.   Once we get through this ‘conflict’ and we start to have an unraveling of the mystery behind the Kaiju, we lead into the climax.  From here, it’s a predictable sense of traditional sci-fi elements that are mixed in with the ‘martyr’ cliché, as well as the self-evident ‘speech’ by the leader.  Once we get this ‘stamp of approval’, the climax becomes a ‘game, set, match’ conclusion, which makes the final action sequence a bit underwhelming.  The quick wrap up seems to makes the ending feel to abrupt, but the film was very fast pace, so it was a given that the film would just end.  Even with this ending, you feel as if you’ve explored a different world, but come to the realization that it is our world.

When it comes to the visuals, it is an obvious strength of the film.  From the creation of the cities and their destructions (Hong Kong, San Francisco, Sydney, etc.) to the epic size of the monsters and mechs, you feel as if you’re a kid at a candy store.  This film is filled with creations that are jaw-dropping and unreal.  On top of this, when the monsters vs. mechs situations happen, you feel as you’re witness to a historical event.  From the sweeping shots, to the colorful display as well as a ‘steady’ camera on the action scenes and the obliteration of buildings, bridges and all that is found in big metropolitans, you’re encapsulated by the situations.  The score is both daunting and capturing.  The music helps build up each act of the film, even when the simplicity is obvious.

Overall, Pacific Rim isn’t a typical film that will appeal to the broad audience.  The unique appeal comes in the world created, the monsters/mech destruction, and the overall story elements of the imagination.  Even if this film is a niche, it is original and entertaining.  If you’re fan of Del Toro or want to see a different kind of film, this is one for you.

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