Enter Guillermo del Toro and his newest film, Pacific Rim. Even typing the premise of this movie sounds like something that should not work in a live-action film, not even on paper. After a revelation that the Pacific Ocean houses a dimensional portal from which giant monsters ( here bearing the Japanese title of Kaiju ) emerge for unspecific, violent attacks on cities, humanity fights back. But how? How do you stop giant monsters with poison blood that takes days to destroy through conventional means?
Giant mechas, naturally! The term mecha here connects to the idea that these machines called Jaegers ( German for ‘hunter’ ) are operated by humans, and not just one. In del Toro’s creative wisdom he decided that one human brain cannot cope with the “load” of stress placed on it, hence why two pilots are needed. However, to operate the Jaegers the pilots minds must be in synch through a process called “Drifting.” Pilots enter the Drift and their minds connect, allowing the sharing of memories, thoughts, and emotions. Two pilots then fuse their minds with the machine and can operate the titanic machine to save humanity. Enter the first hero, Raleigh Becket. Raleigh ( played by Charlie Hunnanm from Sons of Anarchy ) is a former Jaeger pilot who suffered a horrible tragedy while running the American mecha, Gypsey Danger. Raleigh must learn to work with the rookie pilot Mako Maori if Pentecosts plan to stop the Kaiju will succeed.
The movie is astoundingly grounded with a sense of urgency, ‘lived-in’-ness, and danger. The film does not actually depict the start of the Kaiju/Jaeger war, but (seemingly) the end. The film quickly tells the audience about the impact of the Kaiju monsters and the Jaegers pilots have on society (museums are made, TV shows and add placements mock the Kaiju, and Jaeger pilots are rooooock stars), however we don’t spend a load of time with this. What Pacific Rim is about is the efforts of Commander Stacker Pentacost ( played by Idiris Elba of Luther, Thor ) and his last, big play against the Kaju whose attacks are becoming more and more dangerous.
Where Pacific Rim succeeds is the sense of danger, as well as the triumph that comes from watching our heroes succeed despite the urgency of their predicament. Without too many specifics, some of the Jaegers in the film I expected to carry through to the end of the film last MINUTES against the bigger, stronger Kaiju emerging from the portal.
But, oh goodness, what amazing minutes they have!
Every battle between the giant mechas and the Kaiju feel special, powerful, and meaningful. Every swing of Cherno Alphas huge fists ( fists attached to the AMAZING Russian Jaeger ) feel like they pack an earthquake behind them. Crimson Typhoon ( the Jaeger of China ) is agile, reflective, and packs a whollop with its THUDNERCLOUD FORMATION ( this can only be said in all caps ).
In the end it is not the mechas that are the star of the show for me, it is the human races indomitable will , our drive to embrace science as a tool for betterment, protection, and advancement beyond our limits. The movie depicts Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Australian, American, British, and German pilots and heroes. We see locals like Alaska, Thailand, Hong Kong, and more. This is a global threat, not just an American one. The idea of del Toro that “the whole world comes together to save the world” is genuine in this movie and it is refreshing.
More important, this movie has comedy. The principle chuckles will come from Charlie Day ( from Its Always Sunny ), Ron Pearlman ( a del Toro favorite who's been in almost everything the man has ever done ), and Burn Gorman ( Game of Thrones, Revenge, etc… ). These side-characters have a side-plot which *gasp* is important to the movie and is also hilarious. Watching Day and Pearlman felt like it could have been its own buddy-film, with the two trying to procure Kaiju organs and bantering about … anything! In a movie that does have some dark sub-issues ( losing a fellow pilot while in the Drift with him/her, watching your city be destroyed, knowing your friends/family might die to save you in a Jaeger… ), the humor and the Mecha/Kaiju battles elevate the genre away from Nolanization, something that would ruin a film of this nature.
Many people have said so I am not first, nor will I be the last – Pacific Rim is del Toro’s love letter to Godzilla, Anime, and all other things of that sort. His fellow screenplay writer, Travis Beachman, is a self-professed anime fan, has loaded the movie with winks and nods, but without making the film be a parody or a re-make.
In the end, the humanity of the film shines through most with the character of Mako Maori ( played by Babel’s Rinko Kikuchi ), a young woman whose soft speech and passionate eruptions at the idea of being a Jaeger pilot help the movie. She says so much without speaking that ( at times ) I forgot that is something actors should all be capable of doing. True, her character is not expressly deep, but she and actor Charlie Hunnam do seem to build a relationship that works by the movies end. And it is not romantic, another factor that elevated this movie for me.
Pacific Rim is a fun, loud, fist-thrusting movie that makes you feel happy to be in the movies. Go see it. Now.
+ Not an origin story
+ Multi-cultural heroes
+ Amazing battles between Jaegers and the Kaiju
- The middle act drags on
- I could have stood to see more of the other Jaegers … Cherno Alpha, you will be missed!