Directed by: Guillermo Del Toro
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi
Pacific Rim is a movie that I only ever had mild interest in throughout the hyping process. I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t more enthralled by the premise. The film should have appealed to the 12 year old boy in me but I was at best only ever mildly interested in the film on that base a level. The real potential I saw in the film was that it was being directed by Guillermo Del Toro. This master director offered the possibility of doing something surprising with this cotton candy concept. That’s not to say that there’s necessarily anything wrong with cotton candy, I love a little of that during the summer; as long as it doesn’t destroy brain cells while I eat it.
So the set up for this sci-fi spectacle is pretty simple: aliens begin attacking the planet from a dimensional portal on the floor of the ocean and the world’s major countries join forces to build giant humanoid weaponized vehicles to do battle head on with these Godzilla like monsters. The pilots of these ships become life savers and celebrities. The problem is that these giant monsters aren’t as dumb as they appear. They begin new strategies to deal with the human technology and the war escalates. The government fears that the “Yager” program isn’t working anymore so they shut it down and begin a new program to simply build a giant wall. None of that makes any sense in concept or execution in the script or in the events that play out on screen.
One doesn’t attend a screening of a movie like this looking for an Academy Award winning script but from such a world class director it’s difficult not to expect good enough dialogue and a final story that doesn’t make the audience feel stupid for dropping the ticket cost. Unfortunately that’s exactly what happens with Pacific Rim. Dialogue is dodgy and sometimes so melodramatic that it’s cloying. It’s almost like Del Toro was trying to achieve something along the lines of Starship Troopers but he forgot to add in the successful humor and biting social commentary that made that film such a success. Every plot shift is something that we’ve seen happen before more expertly in movies that also aren’t exactly award winners all the way down to a chest pounding patriotic speech that was better done in Independence Day. Finally you might just be going to this film to see some awesome special effects of giant robots fighting giant monsters. Well guess what? Nearly every bit of the action happens at night in the ocean and in pouring rain so as cool as some things might look you won’t know because you can barely see them. There are plenty of fights though, making the movie run at least 15 minutes too long actually.
Pacific Rim even has real tonal problems. First you have this super shallow horribly acted Michael Bay approach to the story and then you have two quirky and tonally completely out of place scientists that have figured out all of the answers. At one point they finally do meet up with Ron Pearlman and apparently Del Toro feels that Ron only does his best work when the atmosphere and setting of his scenes is somewhere between Hellboy and Chromos (two great Del Toro films that starred Pearlman). This tonal shift is just jarring even though Pearlman is kind of fun on screen.
Pacific Rim is easily the most disappointing summer film of 2013 which is saying a lot considering we had a film this summer from the director of The Day After Tomorrow.