Pacific Rim is a monster hit

Guillermo del Toro’s infectious love for giant mecha versus outsized lizard smackdowns makes Pacific Rim hard to resist. By Lance Harris.

An iron giant falls

An iron giant falls

There is a cursory amount of dialogue and plot and perhaps even some human characters doing stuff in Pacific Rim, but who cares? The grown-up voice in your head will find it rather ridiculous, but your inner 10-year-old will be giddy with joy. And if you’re actually 10 years old, this film will probably change your life.

This love letter to crazy mecha anime and rickety B-grade monster movies by director Guillermo del Toro’s is put together with so much enthusiasm that it is hard to be cynical about it. It’s about nothing more profound than the pure delight of watching colossal war machines and skyscraper-sized and dinosaur-like beasts pummel each other senseless in city-wrecking slugfests. But it is about that in such a deft, assured manner that it is the best popcorn film of the year so far.

Okay, so I checked Wikipedia and there actually is a plot. As it turns out, it’s about big mechas fighting big monsters. The film takes place a few years into the future, where monsters called Kaijus have invaded the planet through an inter-dimensional rift in the ocean floor.

To fight the monsters, humans create monsters of their own, in the form of the Jaegers. Each of these giant humanoid war machines is driven by two pilots whose minds are locked together via neural bridge. With time running out for humanity, a dwindling force of Jaeger pilots prepares for a last stand against the monster invasion.

Among them are a burnt-out pilot (Charlie Hunnam) — called back into service to steer an ageing Jaeger model — and a troubled rookie (Rinko Kikuchi), who needs to learn about mastering a giant mecha in double-quick time. But frankly, they’re just so overpowered by all the heavy metal thunder that they could be anyone.

The puny humans may be specks in the landscape, but the world they live in and the monsters around them are breathtakingly real. Del Toro’s visual artistry remains intact in this, probably his biggest budget production to date. The film has an operatic grandeur to it without a hint of pomposity.

Idris Elba and Charlie Hunnam in Pacific Rim

Idris Elba and Charlie Hunnam in Pacific Rim

The rock-em, sock-em beasts that tear up the globe in the film’s many jaw-dropping set pieces are awe-inspiring to look at and watch in motion. Each of the Jaegers is dented and scarred by the history of its battles; every razor-toothed, serpentine-tailed, hulking Kaiju imposes its bulk on the screen.

And when they collide, Del Toro positions his camera and cuts his shots in a way that lets you see exactly what happens when a Jaeger smacks a Kaiju in the chops with a truck. Perhaps it’s a sign of how bad most action filmmaking has become, but the thing that really thrills in Pacific Rim is how well Del Toro puts his action sequences together.

Tone is a slippery beast that so many other tentpole films this year have failed to grasp. Here, it is pitch perfect. Del Toro’s touch is light and his pleasure in his film is almost naïve, but his love for his material is infectious. There’s none of the brooding angst and the misplaced sense of self-importance infused in so many of the big budget films of the year. Even the obligatory rally-the-troops bit — where Idris Elba cancels the apocalypse! — is less painful than it usually is in this sort of film.

Sure, it could have been even better if the dialogue was a bit snappier and the characters were rounded out a bit more, but for the most part Pacific Rim is great entertainment. It’s a fantastic feat of world-building, it has gorgeous art direction, and it’s a shot of pure fun straight to the heart. It’s a film that makes big monsters and big robots and big spectacle feel exciting again.  — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media

  • Pacific Rim opens in South Africa on 2 August
  • View the official Pacific Rim trailer on YouTube

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