From the start you know what you’re getting into with a movie like this; giant robots vs. giant monsters, sky scrapers crumbling and cargo ships used like baseball bats. This is a big, loud, screaming mess of pistons, turbines, blue ammonia blood, and scientific gobblety-gook. A love letter by director Guillermo Del Toro to that most easily consumed of Japanese entertainment, anime and monster movies. Honestly, what’s not to love?
At the fault of tectonic plates between the United States and Asia, the Pacific Rim, an inter-dimensional breach has opened letting loose the Kaiju, giant monsters who instinctually cause destruction and chaos. Unable to fight the Kaiju off without massive casualties, the world comes together in a united offensive using giant robots (giant robots!) called Gundams. I mean Evangelion. I mean Voltron. I mean Megazord. I mean Jaegers, it’s Jaegers! Anyway, using these giant robots (giant robots!), humanity has successfully kept the Kaiju at bay, diminishing the species eradicating threat they pose down to a late night talk show cold opening bit and earning the pilots a celebrity status as the singular soldiers humanity can point to specifically as saviors, defenders of the human race. As the Kaiju that come through the breach getting bigger and stronger, and the number of Jaegers dwindling from dozens to four, a plan has to be drawn up to not only break the defensive line that’s been tentatively held, but finally close the portal that’s letting them through.
Piloting these Jaegers is not quite as simple as jumping into a car. These impossibly complex giant robots (giant robots!) are driven using a neural link between two people. The stronger the bond between the two pilots, the easier their minds link. The easier their minds link the better they fight. It means that the best pilots are generally brothers and sisters, parents and children. The concept itself isn’t so complicated, but the movie is so self-conscious about it that it takes the long way around trying to justify what’s happening and winds up muddling itself in its own jargon, but that comes later.
What’s most important about this movie is the action. Is it good? One might think that’s a simple enough question to answer, but trying to answer that question with Jaegers (or was it Sentinels? Transformers maybe?) and Kaiju alone isn’t enough. Those scenes in between where the characters have to interact in order to move the plot along are just as important as the giant robots (you get it already) fighting not only if you’re going to believe it’s happening but whether or not you’re going to care. If you have any doubts go watch Transformers 2 and then tell me that it isn’t something to at least double check on before the premiere. Anyway the protag du jour is Raleigh Becket, American Jaeger pilot of the rock-em sock-em Gypsy Danger. He’s a rebel with nothing left to lose butting heads with a new straight-laced, ethnically diverse partner who’s out for revenge against the monsters that killed her parents which definitely makes her stand out from every other character in this movie.
Just because two pilots have to sync up in their own giant robot (this is starting to hurt my throat) doesn’t mean they’re going to sync up with everyone else. All the conflict that doesn’t span city blocks is confined to the barracks of the Jaeger pilots and only goes as far as commanders yelling to break it up. The real entertainment is in Charlie Day as a manic Kaiju researcher as he contends with Burn Gorman as his serious counterpart and Ron Perlman as a mysterious enforcer whose hold out in Hong Kong with an expanding collection of Kaiju (I’m over here now!) memorabilia. It’s more than enough to hold your attention between monster bouts.
This was a movie made for theaters. The imagery and the sounds can’t keep up at home the same way it envelops you in the theater with all the creaks of rusty metal in rain, crumbling brick and concrete, and the howls of inter-dimensional beasts. That’s not to say that the movie isn’t worth watching. Like “Gravity”, beyond the sheer absurdity and convolution of the plot, the movie simply can’t hit you as hard as it does in the theater. What that means is it will be that much harder to bring anyone who wasn’t already on board with this along for the whole two hour running time. For the people who were already on board and just wanted someone to reiterate what they already know: It’s silly, but it’s fun! Highly recommended.
Pacific Rim debuts Saturday April 12 at 8:00pm ET. Here is the trailer highlighting just how fun this movie is.