Pacific Rim Movie Review
Yesterday I saw the movie Pacific Rim, a giant robot versus giant monster movie that has been getting a lot of praise from critics and friends of mine. First I’d like to say that this is my first exclusive to Candid Slice article I am writing. All of my other reviews have been posted in several locations in addition to Candid Slice. Second thing I’d like to say is that this the first movie review I have written in a very long while. I think the last one I did was Wreck-It Ralph back last November.
So yes, Pacific Rim was a movie I was looking forward to for several months as it was very clearly inspired by giant robot anime, Godzilla movies, and other Japanese Kaiju (giant monster) films. I grew up watching Godzilla and my favorite anime of all time is a giant robot series so this seemed to be right up my alley. Now long before seeing it, I was expecting the monster battles to be the only thing worthwhile about the movie but being a fan of Godzilla and Gamera movies, that’s what you expect.
However, hearing the praise many of my friends were giving it and even critics (who I was sure would hate it), I got some hope that maybe there would be more here to love than just monsters and robots beating the crap out of each other. Sadly, I was wrong. So you have some context to my disappointment of this film. Just a warning: there may be some light spoilers in this review.
The story starts off with a rift opening in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and from it comes a gigantic monster that attacks the West Coast of the US. After a long fight, the military is able to bring it down. A few months later, another monster attacks. Now dubbed as Kaijus, it attacks Eastern Asia but is defeated only to have another attack happen. It becomes clear to the world that these monster attacks will keep happening so the UN launched the Jaeger program to build giant robots piloted by two humans linked by a neural computer.
The Jaegers are effective at defeating the Kaiju and the pilots of these mechanical titans enjoy celebrity like statuses. 7 years into what becomes known as the Kaiju wars, our main character Raleigh Becket (played by Charlie Hunnam) is defeated in a major battle off the coast of Alaska. Having lost his partner during the battle, he retires as the war rages on. Five years later, the Jaeger program is on the verge of getting shut down due to the amount of money to fund it and hopes that a containment wall around the rift will stop the monsters. Becket is recalled to service once again in what is left of the Jaeger fleet to help with what will be mankind’s last attempt to defeat the Kaiju threat once and for all or get irradiated from the Earth.
Now that sounds like a lot that I just gave away but a good chunk of that literally happens within the first 20 minutes which is part of the problem I had with this movie: it’s pacing.
You could have made a trilogy of movies from what happens in the first 20 minutes of action in this movie.
Then it does slow down but then speeds up again, skipping more time. A good 12 years is skipped around early in the movie so when we do get to the bulk of the movie, it feels so rushed to get from the glory days of the Jaeger program to its decline. I understand what lead the world to this is not really the focus of the movie but there was just so much material that they rushed passed. Maybe they’ll use it all for a prequel or two? I don’t know. The pace does stabilize by the second half of the movie but by then and till the end it hits on so many clichés of action/world ending movies that it becomes really predictable.
And that leads me to the characters. I couldn’t stand any of them. All of them felt like stereotypes and over the top stereotypes at that. This can be done well and if they had all toned it down a little, I might have been able to get into some of them. But most of them have forced accents that really bugged me (some more than others). I know it’s an international effort to fight these monsters but the accents just felt a bit campy for some of the characters, I don’t know.
The roles they played were very cliché. I could tell who was going to die and who was going to live.
The scientist characters seemed to have fun in their roles but they were having too much fun, trying to be the movie’s comic relief and failing at it. The most popular character from this movie has been Mako Mori played by Rinko Kikuchi. Aside from being a cute Japanese girl, she is the closest thing the movie comes to the archetypical female pilot seen in giant robot anime (ie: Rei Ayanami). I did like her character at first but I ended up disliking the direction they take the character. Also the forced loved interested between her and the main character was rather painful for me. They don’t kiss but they might as well have. One role that might get over looked by those who are not nerds was the voice of Ellen McLain as the Jaeger on board AI. She is best known as GLaDOS from the Portal games. Unfortunately we don’t hear all that much from her. I was hoping she might have some personality and have some witty banter with the pilots but nope. So yeah, the plot and characters didn’t really do it for me but it’s not all bad.
The monster battle scenes were awesome and, in this regard, were exactly what I was hoping for.
The special effects for the monsters and robots are great. You really get a sense of awe at how massive these things are while watching them fight. The best scene was definitely the battle in Hong Kong. It made excellent use of the neon lights of the city. I really like the Jaeger designs and how they all had unique designs based on their country of origin. I am a disappointed that there weren’t more Jaeger units to be seen and I’m pretty sure there were more shown in the production artwork prior to the release of the movie. The Kaiju designs are also really cool. They feel more inspired from Gamera monsters than Godzilla monsters (especially the one code named ‘Knife Head’). This is a movie I would actually recommend seeing in IMAX just for the battle scenes. I’m sure it would be something spectacular to see those on a screen that big.
Overall, to me, Pacific Rim was a letdown and, at the same time, exactly what I was expecting which makes it hard to rate this thing. I know that I am in the minority with my opinion on this film, so I do recommend seeing it you’re a fan of giant robot anime or Godzilla films and form your own opinion. If you’re not a fan of either of these then I doubt you’d like it at all. I was hoping for something smarter and deeper than the typical summer block buster but that isn’t the case. I enjoyed it for the giant monster battles but not much else. Maybe you’ll find more. I do like that this movie has brought giant monster movies back into the public eye and, hopefully, make them more popular to help drum up hype for the Godzilla reboot next year.