By Dr. Craig D. Reid
Yes, I hear you, most of you will undoubtedly want to say, “Pacific Rim, it looks like the Transformers.” Oh yee little minds being held at bay (Michael Bay, that is). But once you realize that the leather, space-suited human warriors are operating the robots inside their metallic shells, there goes that connotation.
The bot bout abilities arise from the mind melding of two pilots that with Top Gun angst drive their gigantic, rock em’ sock em’ alter ego androids to the occasional Battleship music rifts and whirring combinations of Power Rangers meets Real Steel ala the 1990s anime Neon Genesis Evangelion.
“History shows again and again how nature points up the folly of man, Godzilla! Oh what a pong, there goes Hong Kong, go go Godzilla…so to speak.”
Director Guillermo del Toro, who also happens to be an amateur entomologist (his favorite insect being Phasmids or stick insects), unabashedly delivers Pacific Rim with 3-D dogma and IMax amazement awash with loud squawking, screeching and screaming sounds. He cooly immerses the audience with coming at you rain soaked battles and underwater dazzles that confound and dumbfound the id. And that is not id-iotic but an id-iom of alien-invasion with dinosaurus implications boasting audacious non-stop demolition.
A tidal wave of reptilian monster titans called kaiju emerge from the sea to wreak death and destruction upon mankind. It’s basically payback for all of man’s pollution stupidity that created an imbalanced environment…apparently we didn’t turn green enough in time. Man’s last stand depends on 6-story high colossal robots, called jaegers (German for Hunters), built to even the odds to fight against the reptile clods.
Historically, man had success fighting the kaijus. Yet as man’s ego, confidence and complacency grew to damaging proportions so did the kaiju’s intelligence. We find that the beasties have hurricane category behavior, one to five, and when the behemoth brain and brawn category five kaijus decide to rear their ugly winds upon the masses of the Earth…the dawn of doomsday hath arrived…a parable of reckless ridiculousness as only humans can attain.
The movie milks emotional content and conflict via familial relationships. Two-deeply bonded pilots operate one jaeger through a mind meld called the Drift. If there is any kind of rift in the drift of the pilots…lights out with their clout.
Hero Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and his co-pilot brother (Diego Klattenhoff) open the film with the kaiju incident that sets this pairing astrain, showing that if one is too adventurous and breaks rank, the end result is devastating.
The same vein of pain exists for the father-son Jaeger-meister team (Max Martini and Robert Kazinsky), as well as for “man on pedestal fearless leader” Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) and his adopted daughter Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), an eager beaver kaiju killer wannabe. Aye, aye Captain…Mako scans Becket like a shark as she becomes his love interest.
And what film of this nature would lack those required, somewhat clichéd clan of colourful characters. At the forefront there’s the mad scientist duo of kaiju groupie Dr. Newton Geizler (Charlie Day) and his counterpart the Roddy McDowall/Jerry Lewis inspired Dr. Gottlieb (Burn Gorman). Pulling up the rear, there’s the kaiju organ harvester (Ron Perlman), whose wingtips and goggles assure us of some interesting backstory.
Two summers ago, a small outfit of Camp Pendleton Marines saved the Earth from alien invasion in Battlefield, LA. Last summer, a wayward, misunderstood naval officer and his ship crew saved the Earth from alien invasion in Battleship.
Which comes to this summer and the what you might think is a tired storyline of someone having to save the planet again from alien invasion, Pacific Rim.
But no, the creature mayhem in Pacific Rim rocks and rolls as there is a growing sense of danger with each of the monsters’ metamorphic stages. From shark-like to other various dinosaur variations that sport pterodactyl wings and giant octopus tentacles or mouth spewing weapons of mass destruction, each incarnation will hold the audience’s attention. End result…as the stakes rise, the odds against the human defenders saving the world dwindles.
Director del Toro, beautifully kills the time between action set pieces. He also sprinkles a wee bit of martial arts in the storyline…albeit a far cry from any decent martial arts movie out there. However, the combat suffices for the nature of the scene and the story’s femme fatale moxie.
Overall, del Toro maintains engaging forward momentum without falling into bloated and padded narrative. Although on IMax, during mayhem, it was sometimes difficult to understand what was being yelled. Furthermore, the monster-robot battles were surprisingly coherent. Amid all the crash-bang, walla walla bing bang action, it’s not only there because it needs to move the story along, but it also provides some overtly subliminal humorous moments.