Review - Pacific Rim

My first visit to the BFI IMAX at Waterloo could not have been for a more appropriate film. Pacific Rim is a summer blockbuster that sees giant monsters known as Kaijus travel through a portal on the Pacific seabed to cause devastation to some of Earth's major cities. To stop the threat from the Kaiju, humans creates Jaegers, giant robots that are manned by two pilots whose brains are linked to manage the task of operating the colossal machines.

All the promotional material for Pacific Rim featured the phrase 'GO BIG OR GO EXTINCT' and my word do they go big. This is the type of film that the biggest screen possible is needed. 

The film wastes no time in getting to the point and starts with a voiceover from Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) explaining the Kaiju invasion and the defence that was put in place by humanity. The Jaegers are an effective way of stopping the threat until the arrival of the Kaiju becomes more frequent. 

After the initial voiceover from Becket we are given a quick guided tour of how the pilots of the Jaegers have their brains linked so the robots are ready for combat. One pilot is synced to the right side and the other to the left side. It is not long before we see the Jaeger in action as Raleigh Becket and his brother Yancy (Diego Klattenhoff) are called aboard their Jaeger 'Gipsy Danger' to fight off a Kaiju. 

Then comes the first moment everyone had been waiting for. The first fight we see between a Kaiju and a Jaeger. It was time for everyone to let their inner-child out. The Kaiju are as grotesque as I expected, after all this was a Guillermo del Toro film. I was tempted to shout "Let's get ready to rumble!"

What follows is visually stunning. The Jaeger and Kaiju go at each other with everything they have and the attention to detail from del Toro just shows the passion he has for this genre of film. 

The fight doesn't end too well for the Jaeger as we see Yancy lose his life and Raleigh just about manage to get 'Gipsy Danger' to safety. The film then lets us get our breath back and calms down for a moment.

Skip forward 5 years and we find out that the Jaeger program is not as effective as it used to be. Funding has been cut and Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), the commanding officer of the Jaeger program, is forced to send all remaining Jaegers to a base in Hong Kong as a last line of defence. 

For the next 45 minutes we don't see anymore fights between the Kaiju and Jaegers. Instead, del Toro takes the time to get some character development and string out the story a bit. Unfortunately that doesn't quite work.

Of course I wasn't expecting the whole film to be giant monsters fighting giant robots but with a filmmaker like Guillermo del Toro at the helm I was hoping for a better story and stronger characters. I don't think the script and some of the actors really helped in this situation. 

We are introduced to characters including Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), Herc Hansen (Max Martini) and Chuck Hansen (Robert Kazinsky a.k.a. Sean Slater from Eastenders). Oh and let's not forget the obvious comedy relief of the film, Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Dr. Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman), who to be fair turn out to be funnier than I first thought they would be.

The trouble is that it is hard to care about any of these characters as they are all a bit weak. Mako Mori and Stacker Pentecost share a father and daughter bond that just felt quite unnecessary. It means there was always going to be an emotional scene between the two at some point in the film but when it came, it all felt a little bit emotionless. 

Not as emotionless however as a similar scene between Australian father and son pilots Herc and Chuck Hansen. I found myself laughing at this point due to the suspect acting and the cheesy script.

With all of this in the first half of the film the scene is set for the second half to be full of giant smack-downs between monsters and robots. It does not disappoint!

The second half features 4 Jaegers, 5 Kaiju and 2, yes 2 nuclear explosions. It would be easy for the visuals to get a little lazy but they don't. Again the attention to detail in each fight scene is amazing and every Kaiju that turns up is different, keeping things fresh rather than repetitive.  

Just like in the Transformers films, cities get laid to waste but it is much easier here to distinguish who is who in the fight scenes. This is fun cinema and you would be a fool not to just sit back and enjoy.

It is no secret how cheesy and over-the-top the whole film is, not since Independence Day have I seen a film so full of corny one-liners. There is one point where Stacker Pentecost gives a rousing speech before the final battle and I just could not help but think it was a poor-man's Independence Day President's speech.

The script for this kind of film is always going to feature some stupid lines but it helps if the lines aren't delivered by actors who only have one expression. Charlie Hunnam is the biggest culprit in Pacific Rim. Yes the lines are stupid but he delivers them so badly it is hard to take a liking to his character. Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum have stupid lines in Independence Day but they are good actors that make those characters likeable.

Maybe I am being a bit harsh but all I could see when Hunnam was speaking was his cockney-mouthed Pete Dunham from Green Street shouting "Stand your ground!". Not something I want to see in a film like this.

With all this in mind, Pacific Rim is an entertaining summer blockbuster that delivers on its promise of going big. However, there will be people like me who are hoping for more from a Guillermo del Toro film. I really enjoyed his work on the Hellboy films and Pan's Labyrinth,  
it's just that Pacific Rim would benefit from having some of the better acting and far more superior scriptwriting from his previous films.

I liked the film and if the fight scenes were nowhere near the standard they are then del Toro's reputation could have taken a beating but they are what ultimately holds the film together. 

This is entertaining cinema that could have and probably should have just been a little bit smarter than it is.

Verdict: 3/5



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