Guillermo Del Toro works on a one for me, one for you basis switching from art house masterpieces (such as Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone) to the more mainstream fare such as the Hellboy movies. In the case of Pacific Rim it is a movie both for Del Toro himself and for the paying audience as Pacific Rim is a film made to express his own love of the genre whilst giving the paying audience a staggering summer spectacle.
In the near future (2020s to be exact) the world is under attack by the Kaikus (a Japanese word meaning strange creature). These monstrous beasts emerged via a portal on the floor of the Pacific Ocean and began causing havoc upon the world, causing nuclear style destruction. To combat these beasts every country builds Jaegers, a colossal Mecha robot thing which requires the two pilots (or three) to build a bridge between their two (or three) minds so that they can operate the Jaeger (their special weapon is a bomb called the jagerbomb). The main story follows washed up pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) who is drafted out of retirement to fight in a mission of which the goal is to destroy the breach and rescue humanity from the Kaikus.
What Pacific Rim does more than anything is show us how truly bad Transformers really is. The epic spectacle and visuals on display in Pacific Rim outstrip anything Michael Bay can create in his limited imagination. Give a film about giant fighting robots to a man with an imagination such as Del Toro and Pacific Rim is the end result. The spectacle on display is truly spectacular, you generally do get a sense of the majestic size of both the monsters and the mecha robots, and you get a sense of their sheer power and strength as they dwarf over cities. The Kaikus are brilliantly designed (inspiration for the designs of these creatures was taken from real life creatures such as the Goblin Shark), and most importantly are memorable. That has been a pressing issue with big monster movies; the payoff is never quite as good as the buildup, however, in Pacific Rim each monster is as memorable as the last.
Pacific Rim is what giant fighting robots is all about, we get a kick from watching a Mecha bot pick up a huge tanker ship and smash the Kaikus around the face with it. Del Toro knows that Pacific Rim is a load of nonsense, he knows that the film is mostly about giant fighting robots and he devotes his time to making these giant, fighting robots look as incredible as possible and he (and his design team) do a stunning job. Del Toro loves the genre and this is clearly shown in the fight sequences which are presented on such a grand scale that they are greatly entertaining. The film’s plot, like some of the dialogue, can be laugh out loud funny, namely the plot contrivance that results in our two heroes going into battle because their Mecha bot is the only analogue bot left after the digital Mechas were disabled (I thought they got rid of that shit in naughties).
However, staggering spectacle aside there are a number of issues, namely characterization. A great deal of the characters remain nothing more than stereotypes (the bad ass captain and the arsehole pilot nobody likes but actually turns out to be a nice guy at the end of the movie). It becomes very difficult to be concerned about any of their fates. The comedy pair of scientists are also bad-bad rather than good bad. Portrayed by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman the contrasting and slightly eccentric personalities of the scientists do not bring any laughs as both actors give slightly cringe worthy performances. There are attempts to build character, but they are not entirely successful. A father-daughter relationship is built between Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) but it barely goes further then a dream sequence. However, there is an attempt to build the female character of Mako Mori on a similar level to that of the men, which is achieved but Mako Mori is hardly developed any further than the male characters.
Performances across the board are mostly passable, Idris Elba chews up the scenery, Rob Kazinsky attempts an awful Australian accent and Charlie Hunnam’s poorly developed character doesn’t make a greatly charismatic lead. However, all that considered, the staggering spectacle was enough to make the whole 130 minutes breeze by.