Cinematic Releases: Pacific Rim

Godzilla, Voltron, Macron-1, Tekkaman, Infra-man, Ultraman, Spectre Man, Mazinger-Z, Transformers, and NES are the ingredients of my childhood. I've been looking forward to Pacific Rim since all we had was the title of the film and Guillermo attached to direct computer-generated robots laying havoc upon giant monsters. In fact, I've been waiting for this film almost my entire life. Yeah, my expectations were high, so, I'm sure you'll take my review with a grain of salt. 

Anyway, Pacific Rim mostly looks the part. The robots, called Jaegers, feel genuinely massive as does the accompanying action. Despite just about all the best parts making quick glimpses in the trailers, the action, though difficult to decipher (I'll get back to this), can be pretty darn exciting. The skirmishes play out more like epic WWE matches and less like Michael Bay's cacophonous Transformers. Though I appreciate what Bay puts into his action pieces, I was thrilled to see almost no similarities between the franchises. Pacific Rim takes on its very own unique tone.

Thankfully, that's very much what Pacific Rim is.

Though it wears its inspirations on its sleeve, the film has taken on its own identity amongst the typical Hollywood trend of having to be based on existing material. Del Toro must command some kind of great presence over there in the land of remakes and adaptations in order to dare make something that isn't any of the aforementioned redundancies. The two-pilot concept alone, however unique, had me apprehensive and I'm surprised it got the go-ahead from studios. Thumbs up for getting that passed the suits, but in my opinion, it ended up being exactly as I feared. I'm sure someone out there was tickled by this. I, on the other hand, felt it was completely unnecessary and was only a gimmick to induce suspense and drama. Cheesy suspense and drama at that, if only because it might be the summer film riddled to Swiss with the most text-book clichés possible.

"I'm never going back to that job again. The past is the past. That was a long time ag-- alright, cool. When do I start?"

"I don't like you. You're reckless and I'm a douche bag. The audience is supposed to hate me."

"We've exhausted all possible avenues of success. There is no possible way could... oh, right."

It doesn't end there. There is literally not a single character that you haven't seen before. This doesn't help anything. Yeah, yeah, I know you're going to say it. Who cares? Just have fun! Which I did! Charlie Day was hilarious as expected! Idris Elba was awesome! Ron Perlman is Ron Perlman! Robots and monsters! Kaboom! Smash! RAWR! Right, I gotcha. But when the entire remainder of the film has almost nothing whatsoever new to put on the table, the fact that this is the most original summer blockbuster in a while is a little perplexing and it makes it very hard to care at all about any single one of these cardboard standouts wobbling around grumbling, yelling, and crying at each other. Just shut the hell up and punch a dragon in the face.

Speaking of dragons, the best part of the film is really the only reason you go to these things, right? Jaw crushing, limb tearing, plasma cannon action! Like Bay's Transformers, this film suffers from the same detriments. Everything looks the same. You have gray metal robots fight gray fleshy monsters in the rain, in the dark. It can get muddled. For as much obvious influence the kaiju genre had on Del Toro, it's odd that he would choose monster designs that are pretty much all the same. One has tentacles, one is fatter, one's face splits into three places and not just two. Essentially, they all look the same. For those who have seen it will say, "But what about the part of the plot you can't spoil in your review?!" My answer is that I don't give a crap. That's not a good enough excuse to make boring creature designs. 

On the same note, where is the color in the Jaegers? If only one had blue and gold arms and a red face. Or neon green legs and a purple chest. Not only would it have made better toys to capitalize on the little kid (or even big kid) market, but we'd immediately be able to more fully appreciate the details of the battles, and we could better identify our favorite Jaegers. Instead we get gray flesh smashing against gray metal, but not all is a loss. The fights, as mentioned before, are at their best when the action is framed wider and the moves more extravagant, which there are plenty of.

Yes, Pacific Rim is a cool movie. Great comic-relief, the fights are fun, even if they don't get to the point of being cheer worthy, the concept is refreshing as far as American cinema goes, certainly, but the perpetual onslaught of clichés and a puzzling lack of originality in otherwise every other department makes it very tough to care about any of it beyond being an enjoyable passage of time this summer. I do hope this film makes loads of cash, though. If only to show we can support something new. So, please, go! You might enjoy yourself more than this jaded fan of the old-school Kaiju.

-review by J.G. Barnes