Review: Pacific Rim

There’s not a whole lot to say about Pacific Rim that hasn’t been said already. It’s scarcely necessary to mention that it’s awesome—that was clear enough from the early trailers. What hasn’t been emphasized so much is just how awesome it is, and in what ways. There was never any doubt that the fight scenes would be something else. This makes it easy to lose sight of the movie’s other qualities.

I would summarize the plot, but the phrase “giant robots versus Godzilla” tells you just about everything you need to know. This is not a particularly difficult film to grasp. The giant robots are piloted by teams of two human operators connected through a “neural handshake”. The pilots must be skilled hand-to-hand fighters, because they control the robots through some combination of motion sensors and direct brain wiring, and they also must be compatible with each other. This last tidbit leads to much of the movie’s drama, and Guillermo del Toro has clearly had a lot of fun creating broadly drawn, colourful characters ripped directly from anime and brought to life. The two ranking officers are named Stacker Pentecost and Hercules Hansen. What more do you need to know?

As many have noted, this movie takes instantly recognizable elements from mecha anime and other sci-fi sources and recombines them in an ideal form. This is geek culture distilled, and it’s done with such gratifying care and attention to detail. The filmmakers could easily have gotten away with doing a shittier job, but the worldbuilding is spot-on (subtle details like Charlie Day’s tattoos hint at a rich story world without taking us out of the action to explore it) and the secondary characters are excellent (especially the hilarious performance from Ron Perlman as Hannibal Chau). The photography is beautiful, and the deftness with which del Toro suggests scale is always entertaining.

If I had to make complaints, I’d have two. The first is that the fight scenes could have been even more audacious. I know, one robot hits a kaiju with a cargo ship baseball-bat-fashion, and there’s a goddamn elbow rocket! for more effective punching, but even at the end it felt just a touch restrained. I could have used a few more insane stunts—and it wouldn’t have hurt to set more action in well-lit, non-rainy environments. The second complaint is not really with the movie but with its presentation: it’s all but unavailable in 2D in my area, so I had to get my mecha action served with a side of splitting headache and existential confusion. Why do we persist in pushing this dead-end technology? Stop trying to make “fetch” happen, Cineplex, it’s not going to work.

If you’ve known about this film for the last few months, your mind is probably made up already. But on the off chance it’s not, go see it. You will not regret it. Pacific Rim delivers everything we expected from it in spades, but it’s not without a few pleasant surprises.

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2 thoughts on “Review: Pacific Rim

  1. I agree with everything you had to say. I’m not really a fan of mecha animes, but I feel that del Toro pulled it off well. The fights could have included some flashier stunts by the robots. They could have been more agile. And yes – I wish there would have been some fights not in the water and especially not in the rain at night. The fighting was epic – but it could have been greater.

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