A movie in which giant robots fight giant monsters, and it’s not anime? You’re darn right I want to see this! Unfortunately when 2013’s Pacific Rim hit theaters I was busy with ConnectiCon and other goings on (like being stuck on the night shift and my manager at the time loving to mess with me) so I didn’t get to see it. Then I lost my job and life started going to heck so it wasn’t a priority. I happened to catch it on TNT and record it, but it wasn’t until last night that I finally got to watch it. And good thing with the sequel, Pacific Rim: Uprising coming in March.
There was a lot of hype for this movie given the circles I associate with. Kaiju, giant robots…it wasn’t a movie I wasn’t going to hear about. Most of my internet friends loved it although not everybody. I don’t know the details because I never watched or read the reviews, trying to keep myself from being spoiled. So if you still have to see this there are spoilers in this review, but I’ll keep them minimal.
RELEASE DATE: 2013
RELEASED BY: Warner Brothers & Legendary Pictures
RUNTIME: 131 minutes
DIRECTOR: Guillermo del Toro
GROSS REVENUE: $411,002,906 from an estimated budget of $190,000,000
IMDB SCORE: 7 out of 10
ROTTEN TOMATOES SCORE: 71% (Audience Score: 77%)
The Plot: In the future a dimensional breach opens up in the Pacific Ocean that springs giant monsters dubbed “kaiju” (after the Japanese term for Godzilla and friends). To fight them, giant robots called “Jaegers” are built, but due to the complexity they must be piloted by two people, connected mentally through a process called “Drifting” that lings the two pilots minds, sharing knowledge and even memories. The story focuses on Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam), a former pilot who left the project after his co-pilot and brother was killed while they were still mentally linked. In the time since the government has decided to forget the robots that have protected them, preferring to hide behind a giant wall, despite it not working. (No, I don’t think this is a comment on the wall meant to stop criminals from sneaking over the Mexican border.) With the project on its last legs the director of the project, Marshall Stacker Pentacost (Idris Elba) calls Raleigh back for one final go. Becket chooses his co-pilot, a woman named Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), as the two must confront their pasts if Earth is ever to have a future.
Why I Wanted To See It: I thought we covered that. Giant robots versus giant monsters. Really, was there any other reason anybody wanted to see this?
What Did I Think?: Luckily it does manage to go beyond its premise, unlike for example Snakes On A Plane. Imagine Robot Jox (a movie about giant robots fighting each other in place of actual wars) with a better budget, better actors, and a better script, and you get Pacific Rim, the movie the former wishes it was. Hunnam and Kikuchi have good chemistry as the pilots of the main robot, Gypsy Danger, but isn’t turned into a romantic coupling, which would have to be forced to work. Petacost is over protective of Mako given their history but he’s not unreasonable and is working in the best interest of the human race. The only other Jaeger team we meet is Striker Eureka, the father/son Australian team of Herc and Chuck Hansen (Max Martini and Rob Kazinsky respectively). The other two are pretty much cannon fodder. I would have liked to have met them as well.
The CG is quite good for the movie. The Jaegers and kaiju look very good and I wish we had more battles than we saw. The majority of the first two acts focuses on the pilots, hence my comparison to Robot Jox earlier. Plus they’re both stories of seasoned pilots returning to help a rookie pilot, only instead of silly wars with each other they’re fighting giant monsters. And there is no traitor. There is a big jerk but I’ll come back to that. This is where the comparisons end. Like I said, Pacific Rim is what Robot Jox wanted to be. Better effects, better actors (as much as I usually love Gary Graham and Anne-Marie Johnson), and a much better script. Plus giant monsters to fight.
And we don’t just focus on the pilots. There are two scientists, Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day), a kaiju expert so interested in the monsters he’s accused of being a fanboy, and Herman Gottlieb (Burn Gorman), who is more analytical and trying to close the rift. Both are experts and although they bicker neither one is treated as the “dumb one”. Both of them get good moments and work to solve the kaiju problem in their own way. And both are important to the final victory. The show-stealer (when he’s on camera) has to be Ron Perlman as black market kaiju merchant Hannibal Chu. He’s just so fun to see in action (and listen for how he came up with his alias) but I think he shows up just enough to not overshadow the other performers. The mid-credit final gag is a bit of a cop-out mind you but I hope he’s in the sequel somehow.
But how is there going to be a sequel? The ending is rather final, without giving away too much. Also, did Chuck have to be the jerk who comes around cliché? It doesn’t really do much for the story or any of the characters involved. He could still be concerned about Raleigh being out of action for so long and Mako’s rookie status since they’re needed to watch his and his father’s back during the attempt to close the breach, but he could do so without being the “required” macho jackass. Outside of not seeing enough robot on monster action those are the only real complaints I have.
Was It Worth The Wait?: Mostly. I think there was so much hype from reviewer colleagues (one in particular sang the praises of this movie like it was the second coming) that it couldn’t live up to it when I finally saw it. Had I seen it sooner I might have been as ecstatic as they were but this far out with all the buzz around it I couldn’t muster the same enthusiasm. That’s the problem with hype. I imagine Frozen will have the same problem, although Pacific Rim didn’t have as big a backlash.
I probably won’t get the DVD and while I’m interested in the sequel, if only to find out how they can have one, I’m not as pumped as some others are. Still, I did enjoy the movie so that’s a good thing at least. It’s definitely worth checking out, but go in with an open mind either way. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it more.