Movie Review: Pacific Rim

There are movies that are an absolute joy to behold, those that I love singing high praises and recommending to others as much as I can. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy tearing apart those truly horrible pieces of cinematic trash as well. But then there are those anomalies that lie right in the middle, both incredibly good in some ways and dauntingly bad in just as many other ways. It doesn’t necessarily make the movie bland or mediocre, but the good and bad sit side-by-side without ever mixing together. That is the anomaly I face in Pacific Rim, Guillermo Del Toro’s love letter to Japanese giant monster movies and anime. There’s just as much good as there is bad.

To clarify, the side I’m truly disappointed in is that it’s a Guillermo Del Toro movie. I often cite Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth(2006) and much of his early work as some of the finest examples of foreign art house films. His early works boasted incredible acting with beautiful writing to tell absolutely brilliant character pieces, accented with elements of fantasy. While the dialogue writing is usually well-balanced in Pacific Rim, Del Toro failed to conjure up a cast to represent his script. With the actors ranging from wooden and indistinct (Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Hunnam) to acting as though they’re in their own separate movies (Charlie Day, Idris Elba, Ron Perlman), it is almost impossible to connect with such a disjointed group.

As I said before, the screenplay, particularly the world building, really is something to behold. Instead of opting for your typical monster-on-the-loose movie, Del Toro expands on the kaiju genre in ways never seen before, such as the slums of a city being built around the skeleton of a kaiju or ann apocalyptic setting overrun with giant monsters or two minds melding together to operate a giant robot. Although the cast does not live up to the writing, the characters are very well thought out and have compelling story arcs that compliment a surprisingly original world.

The side that I found to be the film’s strongest point was the kaiju movie-inspired special effects sequences. These moments, strongly evoking those notoriously cheesy Godzilla and Ultraman movies, are joyously ludicrous and over-the-top, a dazzling mixture of flashy colors and geek-inducing battles which are truly a sight to behold. In many ways, they’re what Michael Bay’s Transformers action sequences should have been: fast-paced and exciting, but still discernible.

With that being said, there are some problems I had even with moments like these. Del Toro is known for fusing CGI with makeup and prosthetics to create truly convincing fictional characters. None of that is really used here – it’s all generic CGI. This is a little disappointing, considering the entire genre Pacific Rim pays tribute to is so well known for suit acting. If there is anyone who could bring back convincing practical effects with suits and animatronics to grand-scale action blockbusters, it would be Del Toro. Instead, typically detached CGI is applied to some well-designed mechs and monsters, all boasting signature Del Toro style.

Let it be said that I grew up a massive Godzilla fan, placing the never-ending kaiju series up there on my regular VHS rotation list with Star Wars and classic Disney movies. Two of these have aged well, one has not, and Pacific Rim may raise more awareness of the genre, but it does not manage to revitalize the Japanese monster movie for modern audiences like it should have. The fights are fun, but just like those problematic monster mashes of old, the characters are disjointed and mostly uninteresting. Del Toro has taken the kaiju genre and did the right thing by trying new ideas for the concept of a giant monster movies, but unfortunately, there are just too many missteps that will ultimately drag Pacific Rim into obscurity.

 

My rating:2.5 out of 5

About Brady Gorman
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