Second Sight: A Love Letter to Mecha and Kaiju: Pacific Rim (2013)

Michelle gives Pacific Rim an updated review. 

Director Guillermo del Toro is very open with his love for all things Japanese--especially his adoration for giant robot anime and kaiju (giant monster) films. Pacific Rim (2013) is his version of a tokusatsu film which is the Japanese version of a special effects laden blockbuster (examples being Godzilla, Ultraman, and Kamen Rider). However, he takes the concepts that make these movies resonate with audiences and forges his own path creating something that is both nostalgic and exhilarating at the same time.

In Pacific Rim, kaiju have started to emerge from from a portal at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and have begun attacking various countries. To combat this, each country builds a giant mecha called a Jaegar to fight the monsters. Each Jaegar is controlled by two pilots who are connected to each other (and the Jaegar) via a mind-link. This is known as "drifting" as the individuals become as one in order to share the considerable stress on their brains and emotions while piloting the mecha. This is an interesting way to incorporate a Voltron-style team-up without having the mechas literally combine. It also occupies the "I can't interface with my robot because of my angst" territory of shows such as Evangelion.

Guillermo del Toro has a tendency to write his characters more as archetypes than complex and layered individuals, and he does the same thing in this film. He has Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) the washed-up, hot-blooded pilot, General Stacker Pentacost (Idris Elba) the no-nonsense leader, and Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) the meek pilot with a traumatic past. These characters definitely feel a bit underdeveloped, but in the main scheme of things, this film is about the battles and the overarching theme of working together to overcome a threat that is bigger than ourselves. 

The battles themselves are epic in scale and execution with the kaiju and Jaegars clashing in spectacular fashion. Del Toro is savvy enough to pull the camera back from the action so that we can see all the glorious special attacks and fun weapons being deployed. Any movie that has a giant robot beating the living hell out of a giant monster using a an 'effin BOAT as a sword is a win in my books. There is a lot of color used in the backgrounds and the kaiju utilize a lot of particle-heavy beam attacks that erupt into light shows. I do wish that the Jaegars themselves were more brightly colored--there is a reason that a lot of mecha shows use primary colors for their robot's paint jobs. It makes them easier to pick out in a chaotic and furious fight. Each Jaegar does have a distinctive silhouette so that does help somewhat.

Pacific Rim is one of the few genre films that doesn't just use references as a shortcut, it makes something new within the framework of its inspirations. Go Nagai, the godfather of the modern concept of an internally piloted giant robot, highly praised the film, as well as iconic Japanese game designer Hideo Kojima who called it "the ultimate otaku film". It's apparent in every frame of the film that Del Toro loves these ideas and what they stand for. While it might not be the deepest movie to ever grace cinema, it definitely is one of the most enjoyable.

-Michelle Kisner