“Today we face the monsters that are at our door! Today we are cancelling the apocalypse!”
The Scoop: 2013 R, directed by Guillermo Del Toro and starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, and Rinko Kikuchi
Tagline: Go big or go extinct.
Summary Capsule: Robots that are legally distinct from yet strikingly similar to Gundams protect the Earth from monsters that are legally distinct from yet strikingly similar to Godzilla.
Al’s rating: You’ve got the touch! You’ve got the powerrrrrrrrr! Yeah!
Al’s review: I was never a ‘giant robot’ kid. My childhood was inundated with Voltron and the Transformers and the Go-Bots, and although I had lots of classmates who loved them, they just weren’t ever my thing. However, having watched Pacific Rim, I can officially say: I get it. I see now. Giant robots are awesome, especially when they hit stuff. And isn’t that the kind of lesson we should take away from more movies?
In the very near future, skyscraper-sized monsters called Kaijus have started to emerge from a crack deep in the ocean and are destroying cities along the Pacific Rim (hey, look, it’s the title!). In response to the attacks, humanity decides that the only way to fight back is with giant robots controlled by hotshot pilots who don’t play by the rules, like Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam) and his brother, Yancy. The “let’s build giant robots” strategy works for a while, but the Kaijus keep getting stronger and, when the money for the robots dries up, everything suddenly rests on the shoulders of a plucky team of rag-tag soldiers and a sad-because-his-brother-is-dead Raleigh to make a final stand for humanity.
The story of Pacific Rim is one you’ve seen before. In fact, pretty much everything in Pacific Rim is something you’ve seen before. This is a movie that walks boldly into clichés and has the guts to do it without flinching or winking at the camera. There’s not an ounce of self-awareness in this movie and nowadays that takes a special kind of bravery. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that this may be the only way to sell this sort of premise. If the characters don’t believe it, then the audience certainly isn’t going to, either.
Charlie Hunnam is our Luke Skywalker with beard stubble, and he does a serviceable job as the slightly bland main dude. Idris Elba is Nick Fury, which also totally works. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman are R2-D2 and C-3P0. Robert Kazinsky is Val Kilmer from Top Gun. Rinko Kikuchi is the super-talented wannabe pilot being held back by her overprotective father, which makes her… I don’t know. Nemo, maybe? Yeah, sure, I guess that works. Anyway, everyone is in the movie is a stock character you recognize but they all do great work, so I don’t hold it against them.
Of course, I’m willing to forgive a lot of the sins in Pacific Rim because everybody knows that we aren’t watching for plot and character. We’re watching because it’s awesome when a giant robot hits a Godzilla monster, and, make no mistake, the fight scenes in this movie are fierce. Remember that one shot in The Avengers where they pan through Manhattan and you see Cap and Iron Man working in tandem on the ground, and Hawkeye is shooting guys out of the sky, and Thor and Hulk are taking out massive space worms, and it’s a completely perfect realization of everything you always imagined The Avengers could be? I have a feeling that Pacific Rim is *that* movie for the kids who grew up loving giant robots. Transformers has nothing on this. The battle scenes are clean, crisp, and stylish. They hit every dramatic beat you are hoping for and maybe none of it is revelatory, but all of it is way freaking cool.
There was a contingent of people out there who were hoping that Pacific Rim was going to land with a bang and re-define the summer blockbuster. It’s not. Most of the movie is a predictable re-tread of every other summer film you’ve ever watched, but I have absolutely no problem with that when it’s being done this well. Even the scenes outside the colossal monster battles have the right pace and the right energy to keep the story flowing and to keep you invested. It’s got the same kind of crackle I felt when I first saw The Matrix. Like the Wachowskis in 1999, Guillermo del Toro thinks Pacific Rim is pretty gnarly and he’s made it his mission to make you feel it, too. So kick back, enjoy the property damage, and let Pacific Rim show you how cool it is to be a ‘giant robot’ kid.
- The giant robots are called Jaegers. “Jaeger” is the German word for hunter.
- The monsters are called Kaijus. “Kaiju” is a Japanese word that means ‘strange beast.’ It is usually used to refer to giant monsters from films like Godzilla.
- Visual effects supervisor John Knoll and Guillermo del Toro spent several weeks discussing the physics of the giant characters, and went into very specific detail, such as how the air displacement from a Jaeger moving between skyscrapers would shake the building’s windows.
- Though the giant monsters were always intended to be computer generated, all of their designs were expanded from the notion that they could be “worn as suits,” like in traditional kaiju films.
- The first kaiju Raleigh fights in the film was designed after the goblin shark. If you ask me, all of them look very sea creature-ish.
- The computer is voiced by Ellen McLain, who voiced GLaDOS in Portal and Portal 2. Guillermo del Toro is a huge fan of both games.
Stacker: One–don’t you ever touch me again. Two–don’t you EVER touch me again.
Stacker: Today, at the edge of our hope, at the end of our time, we have chosen to believe in each other. Today we face the monsters that are at our door! Today we are cancelling the apocalypse!
Newton: Is that a cuticle? In mint condition?
Newton: You’re Hannibal Chau?
Hannibal: I got the name from my favorite historical figure and my second-favorite Szechuan restaurant in Brooklyn.
Herc: We can either sit here and do nothing or grab those flare guns and do something really stupid.
If you liked this movie, try these:
- Real Steel
- Gundam anything
- Top Gun