Since it was first announced, Pacific Rim has understandably been billed as ‘Guillermo Del Toro does Robots Vs Monsters’. While the end product is undeniably buoyed by the stunning visuals and epic scale carnage, there is also an engrossing story in there driven by likeable characters that you actually grow to care about.
The story is relatively simple, some time in the near future; mankind comes under attack from Kaiju, massive alien monsters that rise from a portal on the Pacific Ocean bed and lay waste to entire cities. As a means of combating this threat, the international community is brought together and develops something called the Jaeger programme. This initiative sees them develop enormous hulking robots which can be manned by pairs of humans that share a psychological connection of sorts, who then go off and fight the beasties. For reasons that remain unclear, the world government eventually decides to discontinue the Jaeger programme. Before they do however, the four remaining Jaegers are gathered together in Hong Kong where Idris Elba’s commanding officer has formulated a plan of his own to end the attacks for good. To man the fourth and final Jaeger, he convinces former pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) to come out of retirement and do his bit once more.
There are a few predictable twists and turns along the way, but while certain developments would be seen as merely cliché in lesser hands, here they merely add to the entertainment. Let’s not be under any illusions, this is big, brash blockbuster entertainment very much in the Michael Bay vein, however where it differs from other big, brash blockbusters, is that it has a story you are happy to invest in and a sense of fun that remains throughout.
The effects on show are nothing short of spectacular. I’d go as far as to say they are some of the best I’ve ever seen. As far as is possible, Del Toro and his team have rendered the sight of a gargantuan monster and an equally gargantuan robot slugging it out in a strikingly believable way. The manner in which these creatures wade through the water and smash through buildings is incredibly impressive and you never feel as if you’re watching a glorified cartoon. Also, take note Man of Steel, this is how you make the prolonged destruction of a city interesting to watch. The cinematography and design of the film in general also deserves special praise and they both help to render the whole experience a real visual feast.
The story is a little thin, and each development can be signposted a mile away, but it is still filled with plenty of fist-pumping and cheer-inducing moments. It was also nice to see a summer blockbuster that promoted a sense of humanity bonding together across nations, rather than just our American brothers swooping in and saving the day again. The actors all perform their roles well with Idris Elba exuding a determined air of authority as Stacker Pentecost and Charlie Hunnam believable as the action hero haunted by his past. Burn Gorman and Charlie Day are also enjoyable in the comic-relief scientist roles, though I am undeniably bias towards Charlie due to my love of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Let’s be under no illusions here, he’s basically just playing Charlie-the-scientist, but it’s not like that is ever going to be a bad thing.
I can understand that Del Toro’s homage to the Kaiju and Mecha movies of old won’t be to everyone’s liking and some people may find the fight scenes a little tedious and the story a little hokey. However if you’re partial to a bit of explosive, big, spectacle-led entertainment, you can’t really go far wrong. Just sit back and enjoy the ride for a few hours. At the risk of regressing to my eleven year old self, big massive robots smashing big massive monsters is extremely enjoyable to watch and when done properly (consider this an extremely thinly veiled dig at certain other franchises) it can really elevate a big summer blockbuster.