If I were 12 years old, Pacific Rim would be my new favorite movie. It is impossible to not to fall in love with the film and be captivated by its charms. Unlike Michael Bay, director Guillermo del Toro is enjoying the mass destruction he is creating and actually crafts a world of likeable characters and the feeling that it could very well be ours if giant monsters suddenly rose from the Pacific Ocean.
The trailer tells you pretty much everything you need to know. Giant beasts known as Kaijus have risen from a dimensional rift in the Pacific Ocean. Humanity builds giant robots (known as Jaegers) to fight them. After several years, the monsters are getting smarter and they are planning something big. So humanity goes on the offensive to close the rift.
There is more to it, but it’s almost irrelevant. Virtually all attempts at dialogue fall flat, particularly the grand speeches by Idris Elba. The joy of Pacific Rim is in the promise of the premise, which it delivers. The effects in the film are the best I have seen all year, and the film will undoubtedly win all of the technical awards at next years Oscars.
But more than that, the spectacle is one that is entirely unique to cinema. del Toro is a man whose imagination knows no bounds, and he is able to craft a world around his ideas. It’s in the little details. All of the giant robots are given names and back stories. The monsters are explored and divided into categories. There is even description of a black market for pieces of the carcasses, with Hannibal Chew (Ron Perlman) controlling a vast underworld related to the Kaiju. People protest after a monster destroys their city, claiming that the governments did not do enough. I even liked the touch with Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi). Her back story is simple – she’s wanted to be a pilot all her life and works with verteran pilot Raleigh Beckett (Charlier Hunnam) to accomplish her dreams. These things are usually ignored as cities are destroyed. I’m usually the guy who wonders about the recovery efforts after the fighting has stopped. del Toro seems to have the same mindset. He at least addresses these items. It makes the fights all the more exciting – we feel that the pilots are fighting for their world.
I would be lying if I said that there was some grand hidden depth to Pacific Rim. It is a smart film and contains homages to authors like Phillip K. Dick. Every Jaeger is piloted by two pilots who have to link their minds to control the massive machines. Thus, they can share memories. You could craft an entire movie off of this idea (and people have) but Pacific Rim uses the idea only to reveal things that could be revealed with a line or two of dialogue. Most of the grander ideas in Pacific Rim are treated like that. Still, in an age when films that cost this much have no ideas, it was nice to see even an attempt at being smart.
The dialogue in the film is also poor. Everyone speaks as if their sentences ends in exclamation points (standard for this time of year) and no character is developed beyond the most basic levels. I could say this is OK, as it is stand with any Japanese monster movie. But I have crucified films before when the creators say that they are crafting an homage, even when those actions lead to mistakes. I am not willing to change that stance for Pacific Rim. A few more drafts to fix the dialogue and the film may very well have been perfect.
So, once again, I come away with flaws. But those are almost besides the point. The spectacle is so satisfying that I am willing to forgive these flaws because the basic spectacle is incredible and shows how talented del Toro is as a filmmaker.When I was a kid, one of my favorite movies was Independence Day. Really. I have since watched it and realized just how bad my taste used to be. I fell in love with the spectacle of it, and the visual effects that I had not encountered before. I fall in love now with Pacific Rim for most of the same reasons. There is one big difference – del Toro realizes what he needed the film to be and unlike lesser filmmakers, he has the skills to pull off amazing visuals that transport the audience to a world that could not exist in any other medium. Pacific Rim is the sort of film that will make a twelve year old fall in love with movies. Then they’ll watch it years later and realize just how good it really is.