By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Diego Klattenhoff, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Max Martini, Robert Kazinski, and Clifton Collins Jr.
Stop the presses. Someone has given Guillermo del Torro the keys to cinema’s most expensive toy box: that of summer blockbusters. Sure, I have (for the most part) enjoyed seeing the visions of his gothic imagery filled childhood realized onscreen. But while he was busy making sure that films such as Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and Mama see the light of day, there was always a rock in the back of my mind that was impossible to break. Inside this rock lie questions over whether del Torro could handle a summer blockbuster while injecting a bit of his trademark vision & humor. Would he be able to make a love letter to both Asian cinema and the 90s anime Neon Genesis Evangelion while at the same time showing audiences an appreciation and respect that has become almost impossible to find in modern cinema? In other words, could he successfully release a film in a season that otherwise has become ripe with mostly mediocre noise making messes like The Lone Ranger.
With Pacific Rim, del Torro has answered these questions with a resounding yes. A mostly satisfying, visceral two hour ride, Rim brims with the aura of a film that has a sense of self-satisfaction. In someone else’s hands, Pacific Rim could come off as a twelve-year-old fanboy in a 48-year-old man’s wet dream. Yet del Torro weaves his tale with the intelligence and mastery of someone who knows exactly what he is doing. Each and every frame of the film seems to have been storyboarded and directed with love. On top of that, instead of having the stakes of the film worded out in a wordy pre-title preamble, del Torro ever so slightly raises them in estimated twenty-minute intervals. I thought this was one of the strongest aspects of Pacific Rim’s storytelling, as it did a really good job of keeping me on my toes. The film’s script (written by del Torro and Travis Beachem) predictably and unfortunately mostly falters when it comes to character development. Hunnam’s character of Raleigh Becket is perhaps the worst casualty. I thought there was a golden opportunity lost with him, as he had potential of being someone worth rooting for but ends up being a cliché. The only human emotional punch comes in the form of the father/son relationship between Kalinski and Martini. There is the inclusion of a strong female named Mako (Kikuchi) that has about as predictable an arc that you can have in any film. However, director del Torro does not let up on making sure we get plenty close-ups of her puppy dog eyes, verifying an ability to bleed emotion from any filmmaking tripe possible. Gorman provides some of what can only be known as awkwardly comedic moments. And it was nice to see that someone has finally taken advantage of one of modern cinema’s strongest presences. Director del Torro wisely places Elba in the role of commander Stacker Pentecost and he runs with it, making loud orders and placing smiles on my face each and every time he does.But who is coming to Pacific Rim for the human interactions? Make no mistake about it: the movie is just as loud as any Transformers film. Yet given this is a non familiar, non comic book story, humanity’s survivaI was always a question with me. I was engrossed in each and every battle, and even when the film predictably makes use of falling rain, the battles are never hard to follow. Does the reason for the creature invasion defy logic and feel like a contrite? Absolutely. But again, del Torro doesn’t use this fact to insult our intelligence. He also does not settle for anything but the best quality of filmmaking tools possible, as the CGI in Pacific Rim is nothing short of phenomenal.
In the end, Pacific Rim is a breathtaking thrill ride experience at the movies. It’s a gorgeous film that keeps moving forward. Yet unlike his contemporary Michael Bay, del Torro knows when to stop long enough to let the audience breathe. Brimming ever-changing plot twists & plenty of fun and surprise, I definitely recommend you checking Pacific Rim out. Is Keijo the Dragon vs Jaegers being put in the spotlight over the human elements within the story a more than viable example of well drawn out cinematic intelligence? Not really. But that does not mean the film wasn’t done by an incredibly intelligent master of his craft.