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Pacific Rim Looks Solid but Rings Hollow

<i>Pacific Rim</i> Looks Solid but Rings Hollow

DVD Release Date: October 15, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: July 12, 2013
Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout and brief language)
Genre: Science Fiction/Action
Run Time: 131 min.
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Diego Klattenhoff, Max Martini, Ron Perlman

Planet Earth took quite a shellacking on the big screen this summer. From the usual superhero-related shenanigans (Iron Man 3, Man of Steel) to yet another rendition of someone threatening to blow up the White House (White House Down) to a full-scale zombie assault (World War Z), what doomsday scenario could possibly be left, you ask? Well, giant manned robots battling skyscraper-sized sea creatures, naturally.

Normally, a project of this magnitude (and trust me, there's nothing small or subtle about Pacific Rim) would be handled by the likes of Roland Emmerich or Michael Bay. But in what's a rather intriguing prospect, it's actually Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) at the helm of Pacific Rim as both director and co-writer.

Considering del Toro's decidedly offbeat sensibilities, especially in regard to a film's aesthetic quality, Pacific Rim had the promise of being that rare big-budget film that fires on all cylinders. Trouble is, while the otherworldly creatures known as kaijus are truly a terrifying sight to behold, there’s not much about Pacific Rim that defies the usual action movie stereotypes. While it might look infinitely better than Transformers in comparison, it’s still dumb, loud and thoroughly predictable with very little human connection.

Taking place in the not-so-distant future, Pacific Rim introduces the audience to another kind of alien—one that doesn’t fall from the sky but lurks beneath the mighty Pacific (hence the film's title). Like most extraterrestrials, these larger-than-life beings basically have a no-tolerance policy concerning humans, and whenever they surface, they wipe out coastal cities in a matter of seconds.

With the fate of mankind hanging in the balance due to an increasing number of kaiju attacks, all the remaining countries eventually decide to pool their collective resources to fight back. Fashioning what they call a jaeger (German for "hunters"), they've decided the best way to win the war is with robots so gigantic they must be powered by not one, but two human "pilots." Pacific Rim Review from crosswalkmovies on GodTube.

In one of the script's more inventive ideas, these robots don't run on standard-issue technology. For these machines to work properly, the operators themselves must form a neurological bridge nicknamed "the drift." And since this mind-melding of sorts often involves revisiting past memories, it's easy for someone to get caught up in a reality that's anything but. To alleviate this condition, it helps if there's already a strong bond between the duo steering the proverbial ship.

Not surprisingly, two of the best jaeger pilots happen to be brothers—Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam, Cold Mountain) and his older brother Yancy (Diego Klattenhoff, The Dark Knight Rises). As skilled as they are at fighting, however, the sheer unpredictably of the kaijus is nearly impossible to overcome.

In a particularly aggressive battle, tragedy inevitably strikes, and Raleigh is left reeling. Emotionally drained and no longer committed to the cause, Raleigh wanders from job to job, eventually landing in Alaska where local law enforcement is taking a new approach to kaiju capture: building a large wall to keep them out (you may be tempted to draw a political parallel here, but don't worry, the film doesn’t bother with anything resembling deeper meaning).

Turns out, one can never quite escape his past, and before long Raleigh is standing face to face with his former commanding officer, the awesomely-named Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba, Prometheus). With the kaiju growing stronger - not to mention smarter - every day, and the jaeger program on the verge of being shut down for its supposed ineffectiveness, Stacker needs Raleigh's help more than ever. As a former jaeger pilot himself, Stacker believes it's the only means of defeating the kaiju.

If you've ever seen a movie before, you know exactly where this paint-by-numbers story is headed. The film is more focused on elaborate action sequences than even the most rudimentary character development, so only the sporadic comic relief from two bickering scientists played by Charlie Day (Horrible Bosses) and Burn Gorman (The Dark Knight Rises) offers any respite from the feeling of watching someone else play a very long videogame.

As with most disaster movies, the body count in Pacific Rim is high, but you never really feel the weight of loss. Without an opportunity to invest in the characters or the circumstances leading to the world's demise, Pacific Rim proves yet again that bigger isn't always better. And the audience deserves "better," even when it comes to summer blockbusters. When we've got so many better options on Netflix, OnDemand and the like (2011's Super 8, perhaps?), what's available should be far better than Pacific Rim—especially if someone like Guillermo del Toro is leading the charge.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Drugs/Alcohol: A reference to a male virility drug.
  • Language/Profanity: A few exclamations of God’s name, plus three instances where God’s name is paired with da--. Sh--, bast---, da--, SOB and as- are also used on occasion. Some scatological humor involving the monsters.
  • Sex/Nudity: None
  • Violence: In addition to your standard-issue disaster movie footage (for instance, you see that San Francisco has been completely destroyed), there are multiple fight scenes between the “robots” and the kaiju monsters that are mostly bloodless. There are several sequences, however, that are far more intense. The monsters themselves are pretty terrifying. In one scene, a kaiju opens up one of the robots, grabs one of the pilots and throws him away (naturally, the man is screaming for the duration). In a scene that doesn’t involve the monsters, a man threatens another by putting a knife up his nose. A person is eventually eaten alive by one of the monsters. A young girl sees her entire family die in a massive kaiju attack, and in one of the rare emotionally tense scenes, she is running away from her death as well.

Publication date: July 11, 2013