Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba and Rinko Kikuchi
Review Written By: Michael Dalton (Prime Minister)
Pacific Rim is brought to us by director Guillermo Del Toro, the man best known for the Hellboy films and Pan’s Labyrinth. He was also the man who was originally meant to be bringing us The Hobbit and one cannot help but wonder about his vision for Middle Earth that never was. With this film he continues to demonstrate why he is one of the most inventive and beloved filmmakers working today. I have noted in previous reviews how I like a film that can build a tangible world beyond what is merely in the frame. Many films attempt this ‘world-building’ however few genuinely succeed. Pacific Rim, is one of those genuine few. Within the opening scenes Del Toro creates a believable world that is only solidified and cemented as the film progresses. It is a detailed, dense world and one could easily imagine entire films and TV series being formulated around mere lines, briefly mentioned ideas and fleeting moments within this film. This world building demonstrates admirable ambition as well as thoughtfulness as to how their concept would both change our world, and create a new one.
The creatures themselves are all impressively designed, however seem to come from those who brought us Cloverfield and Cowboys & Aliens, as opposed to from the man who brought us Pan’s Labyrinth. The creatures in Del Toro’s previous films seemed much more personal and memorable, whereas the creatures in this film will ultimately in my memory get lost in the haze of the J.J. Abrams line of cinematic creatures. This reminded me of the simplistic Joe Cornish philosophy, that a great cinematic monster is one a child could draw. Only a very artistically gifted child could draw the monsters in this film. However despite finding the design of the monsters rather uncharacteristic in regards to Del Toro’s previous work, there is no denying the visual impressiveness of them, as well as the robots they go up against. The visual effects in this film are stunning, with this being a top of the range, Hollywood spectacle. The sound design, the editing, the cinematography, the music and the effects all create awe as well as authenticity, when the fights begin. As a production, Pacific Rim is a sight to behold and much credit must go to Del Toro for comfortably and coherently managing the giant beast that is this film.
However what is perhaps more important to the film beyond its invention and impressive construction, is the idealism of its narrative and lightness of tone. This is not a dark film and instead has the feel of a Saturday morning cartoon. It has an optimistic message regarding the unity and strength of humanity, that gives this film an earnestness that is endearing as opposed to cheesy. This cartoony, silly and optimistic attitude is refreshing in what is a dark age for blockbusters tonally (As well as perhaps necessary considering this film’s story) This is perhaps best evidenced in the subplot revolving around two scientists played by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman (Ultimately leading to a run-in with Ron Perlman, playing a flashy black market dealer for Kaiju body parts) which may have been my favourite aspect of the film. What initially appears to be mere comic relief ultimately becomes integral to the narrative, with their side of the story best exemplifying the film’s world building, as it was an exploration of the way in which the Kaiju have effected and changed our planet. As well as most obviously practicing the film’s lighter tone.
The central relationship between Raleigh and Mako is another aspect of the film I greatly appreciated. This was a romantic relationship that never really became romantic and was instead merely a strong bond between a man and a woman. In other films they would have been tempted to make the relationship sexual and end on a kiss, however in this film it is merely two people from different backgrounds and genders, coming together in a strong and effective way in order to avenge and redeem. It is a pure, engaging relationship, which never felt forced and didn’t bow to cliché, conventions or expectations.
In fact overall I was surprised by just how engaging and entertaining I found the character elements of this film. This is not a simple, brainless and heartless CGI, action-packed spectacle. This is a film that makes an effort to develop its world and its characters. Normally in a film of this sort I would find such efforts redundant and counter-intuitive. However when the film took a half hour or longer pause from any significant action in order to explore, I was not bored or itching for the next action sequence whatsoever, in fact, shockingly, I preferred all that stuff over any of the action sequences I went into the film to see. What would come across in other films as taking itself too seriously, felt natural in this film. The difference being, Pacific Rim is a film that does that stuff because you feel there is a genuine interest in that material and they’re doing it because they want to. Whereas in other similar films, it feels like they’re doing it because they feel they must.
A testament as to how effective I ultimately found the character development, is that as a few robots not containing our protagonists were being dropped into battle against Kaiju I realized…oh, I don’t care about the people piloting these robots and therefore I don’t really care what happens to these robots…let the empty spectacle commence. Ironically, the development was so well done; it took me out of one of the film’s set pieces.
Now it is important to recognize that the dialogue, characters and acting in Pacific Rim are far from perfect. It is in this area of the film where it can get very cliché, very cheesy and very wooden. However none of it made me cringe, or took me out of the film, despite recognition of its weakness, something about the film kept me engaged and on board. It was when the film entered its third act and the robots vs. monsters action came back in full force, that I actually found myself mentally checking out of the film and doing the cinematic equivalent of reading a full page of a book and then realizing you’d be thinking about something else the whole time and you cannot remember exactly what you read. As a whole, I must admit, I found the action sequences in Pacific Rim rather underwhelming.
Ultimately Pacific Rim has a lot of elements I appreciated and really liked, however ultimately underwhelming action as well as a consistently cliché screenplay prevented me from loving the film the way I wanted to. If I were a harsher man who didn’t enjoy the elements of the film I enjoyed as much as I did, I could say the film had me rolling my eyes and then closing my eyes. What this film does have however is an invention and idealism rarely found in modern blockbusters and while the action didn’t leave me giddy the way I wanted it to, at the end of the day perhaps it’s for the best that it was that arena of the film which disappointed me.
While on the surface many may understandably dismiss this as another Transformers, this ultimately has much more class, invention and heart than that.
Movie Parliament Rating: MINORITY GOVERNMENT (What does this mean?)
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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