I believe it was last summer or this past winter when I first gazed upon what was the teaser trailer for the latest film from Guerimillo Del Toro that I first thought that it honestly looked just like Bayformers mixed in with some Godzilla. Mix that in with no true star lead actor and what appeared to be the generic giant robot film that litters the mainstream Hollywood these days. After the film’s release and generally favorable reviews I had the urge to check it out. I left the theater with this feeling that I hadn’t felt since I walked out after Star Trek. But was this feeling simply because of giant robots beating the ever loving shit out of giant kaiju? Or was Pacific Rim a film that accomplished more than most people will give it credit for?
To say that Del Toro is anything short of a visual director would be an insult to his craft. Taking a look at the four films that Del Toro has done that has reached us as a mainstream film audience goes to show his love for effects but not the kind of effects that look like effects. Take all the monsters and enemies that he designed in the two films in the Hellboy franchise. Even Hellboy himself, they all had that realistic look to them that reminded you of the old movie making style as well as the modern style of filmmaking. Look at the rich storytelling in Pan’s Labyrinth and once again you see how del Toro mixes visual story telling with the art of story telling.
The basic story line of Pacific Rim is quite simple. There are Kaiju (or Japanese for monster) who come through a breach in the ocean who attack the people of earth. After failing to defeat them or find a way the human race develops these mechs called Jaegers. The Jaegers prove to be successful for a short period of time and eventually they give up on trying to use them to fight the kaiju and instead use them to help build the wall of life. this of course isn’t in the books for the leader of the Jaeger forces and so he plans one last hoorah to stop the kaiju.
Like I said the basic premise is quite simple. But it isn’t the story that sines here. The scripting for an action movie of this magnitude is incredible. Not only did del Toro and his fellow scribes craft multiple characters that are fairly deep for this genre of film but also added fairly intense themes that are indeed quite shocking to see in once again not just a summer blockbuster but one that the Bayformers franchise has seemingly ruined.
All the while you can see the immense amount of passion that del Toro had for the project. Every single scene was detailed and every single moment was very well thought out. This is why I love the films del Toro makes. The passion he puts out in every scene is scary. I rarely see a director put that much detail into each shot. The giant mechs look like legit giant mechs that would fit into a world and are beautifully rendered and the kaiju have bright colors that make them stand out in the bleak night time environments that we often get. Considering more than half this film takes place at night in Hong Kong which looks eerily similar to Blade Runner’s Neo LA also shows the homage to Ridley Scott.
The action sequences were at times a bit choppy but it wasn’t due to the special effects which blew me away through the entire two plus hours of running time, it’s just that the choppy cam is more annoying than ever before and it gets worse with each film that focuses on the combat sequences. The power suits (yes that’s what I am calling them) looked really lame in action but maybe that was the point? It was mostly how awkward they all looked in the helmets.
Casting wise the film was fairly well cast. I love the fact that Ron Pearlman was in the movie in some facet. I love his voice which is a huge reason why I loved Fallout 3. He has one of those either really dark hero type voices or a decent roguish type guys, he was the rogue in this one. He is one of those underrated actors who have an imposing appearance that just demands you to look at him. Charlie Hannum is not really your typical leading man, yeah sure he’s pretty to look at for the girls (cough cough) but he kept slipping from his British accent to an American accent, yeah sure he has two really large roles (well one if you don’t count what I count) as a British exchange student in the canned Undeclared and a biker bad ass in Sons of Anarchy. He is a fine actor who works great in an ensemble cast but not as the stud.
I loved the duo of Burn Gorman and Charlie Day, both actors who I have seen other works from, Day in It’s Always Sunny as well as the surprise comedy Horrible Bosses and British fanboys might recognize Gorman as Owen in Torchwood/Doctor Who but he also made some appearances in this season’s Game of Thrones. It’s nice to see Day not play a bumbling idiot and he does it well except his voice does fit that of a bumbling idiot, maybe if he toned it down he could be someone who isn’t a bumbling idiot, but his want to be the rock star of science did kind of fit him. I loved Gorman’s different role this time of a proper British scientist (for those of you who have seen Torchwood they know why I am saying this).
But the actor who stole the show other than Pearlman was Idris Elba. Elba is rumored to be in the running to replace Matt Smith as the Doctor thusly making him the first black Doctor, and now I can see even clearer as to why. He demands your attention and respect with the bellowing voice and anger. Every scene whether he is delivering an angry speech or a motivational speech is powerful and demands every once of the attention that you give.
It’s hard to say that Pacific Rim was terrible like some people are saying because that clearly isn’t the case. A lot of time and effort as well as love went into this film and it’s so well done. The homages to classic sci-fi films are clearly present as well as nods to classic anime franchises that seemingly invoke the thought as you watch these giant mechs do battle. Del Toro crafts a well directed thoughtfully cast film that features at points choppy action and sometimes over the top imagery, but Pacific Rim is indeed a must see for anime fans or even sci-fi fans. And for those of you waiting for Hellboy 3 this might tide you over. I give Pacific Rim a nice cleam 8.3/10