If you only see one film this summer, make sure it’s Pacific Rim. It’s a rare film with a decently diverse cast that completely delivers with its high stakes mecha-alien battles while remaining fun all the while. This is a film that’s not just about giant robot battles though: it’s about people. I feel comfortable saying that Pacific Rim is the best film of the summer.
Mild Spoilers beneath the cut
When the alien invasion inevitably happened, they didn’t come from above but rather from a portal in the ocean below. Mankind is easily overwhelmed by these giant sea monsters (dubbed Kaiju) until they pool their resources to build massive robots to fight back. Dubbed Jaegers, the robots are piloted by a two man team and take on these monsters until even they become overwhelmed. The world is losing faith in the power of the Jaegers and now they must make one final stand to fight back against these Kaiju and cancel the apocalypse once and for all.
Everything about Pacific Rim rings right. While it’s not a perfect film, it never stops being fun and enjoyable except for the handful of times where it’s tugging at your heartstrings. Visually, it’s stunning especially every time the pilots are starting up the Jaegers and take them out to fight. The design of both the Jaegers and the sets and costumes is wonderfully done. When paired with Ramin Djawadi’s excellent soundtrack, audiences are in for one hell of a treat. Guillermo Del Toro has absolutely delivered on his promise of a great film, making great directorial choices all around.
The battles are fantastic. There’s one long fight that takes place in Hong Kong and another that takes place completely underwater and it’s the latter that truly makes this film standout because while we’ve all seen giant robots take on any multitude of opponents before, we’ve never seen a fight quite like this. The ocean adds a new element to the battle that takes up to a whole new level. The lighting in Hong Kong makes the land fight beautiful to watch despite all of the destruction going on in the city. (No need to worry though: Del Toro makes it a point to show the residents fleeing to safety before the monsters make it to land.) While I saw the film in 2D and thought that these scenes were visually amazing as they were, I can only imagine how fantastic they must look in 3D and IMAX.
The casting was spot on and everyone in the main cast does an excellent job of really making the audience care about their characters. It would be impossible to single anyone out. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman play off each other wonderfully as the scientists studying the Kaiju and provide some much appreciated humor while Max Martini and Robert Kazinsky put in excellent performances as the Australian father/son Jaeger pilot team. The show stealers, of course, are the three leads: Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket, Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost, and Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori. I’d be remiss if I didn’t note how awesome it is that a white man, an Asian woman, and a black man play the three main characters. Each actor absolutely inhabits his or her role. I can’t imagine anyone else but Idris Elba delivering orders or that final speech with such authority and confidence. Hunnam and Kikuchi play off each other wonderfully and watching the partnership between them grow as the movie progresses is fantastic.
One of the best parts of the film was the theme of cooperation and partnership. The Jaegers are connected to their pilots via a neural link and because the load is too much for one person to handle alone, they are piloted by two people. In order for this to work, the pilots must be compatible (we see several teams of family members) and they share essentially everything with one another as their minds are connected. This, of course, ties into the main relationship in the film between Raleigh and Mako as they work together and overcome their personal tragedies to help save the world. It’s all a part of the bigger picture of the entire world coming together to create these Jaegers to save the planet and it’s really quite a lovely theme.
My only real complaint about the film is that we didn’t get to know the other two Jaeger crews. Both the Russians and the Chinese Jaeger teams had a lot of potential and I wanted to know their stories. On the other hand, I can understand why they didn’t do so in order to keep the story more concise and I look forward to the eventual director’s cut of the film and/or the deleted scenes on the DVD.
At the end of the day, this film is a must see for the summer. You owe it to yourself. In fact, go see it again. I know that I will be. Also, make sure you stay for the credits as there is a bonus scene part way through.
I give Pacific Rim 5 stars and can’t recommend it enough.