When I got to see Pacific Rim, I was in an weird position. I love sci-fi. I love giant robots. I have a deep love of Battletech, Robotech/Macross, Evangelion. I really enjoy the cheesy old giant monster movies of ages past for what they are. Pacific Rim felt like one of those make-or-break moments - if it goes big, we're in for a lot more. If it doesn't, studios may relegate the giant robot franchises back to the hands of clumsy, incompetent oafs like Michael "explosions are story, who the f___ needs plot" Bay.
Pacific Rim does not disappoint on any level.
I'm trying to do this without too much in the way of spoilers, or at least no more spoilers than you're able to see on a news site and a few trailers. Suffice it to say, almost everything from the trailers happens in the first few minutes of the film. Essentially, Earth's being invaded. There are big monsters coming from a rift in the ocean, and humanity figured out that the way to fight them was to build giant robots of their own to handle the threat. The robots worked for a while but the monsters that came through the rift came faster and faster, bigger and bigger. Eventually, the earth governments decided that the robots were too expensive to keep making and instead decided to build massive, massive walls on coastal Pacific shelves that the monsters shouldn't be able to claw their way past.
Enter our main story, about 5 minutes after the latest Kaiju tore through one of the walls like tissue paper.
You won't see most of these robots (they call them "Jaegers") in the film. By the time the main storyline starts, there are only 4 working Jaegers left. I will say this, though: the four that are working are freaking cool. Cherno looks like someone slapped a radiation suit onto a nuclear power plant and let it go for a walkabout. Crimson Typhoon is this amazing thing with three arms and jump jets. Striker Eureka is this fast, nimble thing with back wings that evoke every daydream you've ever had trying to figure out what a real-life Gundam might look like. And then there's Gipsy Danger. This is the main one you're going to see. It's the hero. It looks grand enough in the opener, but the rebuilt version is even cooler. There's something about that jet engine set smack dab in the center of it and the little wingtip armor on the back that's got a grandeur to it.
If you get the chance to see it in 3D, please do so. Pacific Rim is probably the finest, best-done 3D filmmaking to date. There is not a major problem with bleed-through. There is not a moment where you're thinking "oh they just designed this one scene to show off the 3D." There are not absurd depth tricks or "let's see if we can stick something so far across the plane that the audience crosses their eyes and gets a headache." None of that. The 3D in this movie is done tactfully, done well, and is what 3D ought to be: just one of the many tricks in del Toro's bag, a small piece of the main attraction. It's like Al "Weird Al" Yankovic explaining Autotune: eventually, an overused and abused tool slides back into an equilibrium point where it can be used for artistry instead of shock value and del Toro has learned that trick, becoming probably the first filmmaker I've seen to use 3D purely for art instead of distraction.
The key to Pacific Rim, though, is that the robots are characters equal to the pilots. It's the pilots that carry this thing. Warner put out a ton of featurettes for this movie beforehand and every damn one of them ought to be on the DVD and Blu-Ray sets, but the one you're looking for is right here. The actors pulling this off are taking their lumps. More than that, the characters they're portraying are real. They have issues - sibling issues, father/daughter issues, anger management issues, machismo issues, the works. The flattest characters in the film are probably the Russian pilots of Cherno Alpha, and they don't need long - one look at them tells enough of a story of what they've already been through.
If I go any further into this review, it's going to be some major spoilers. Just trust me when I say: you need to see this one.
Comments? Send 'em to Michael (at) Glideunderground.com!
right here for everyone to see!