Director Guillermo Del Toro is known for his mastery of spectacle in cinema. He made a name for himself with the critical darling, Pan's Labyrinth, but now finds himself at the helm of Legendary Pictures' 200 million dollar blockbuster, Pacific Rim. Fans of Del Toro's work on the Hellboy series were excited to see what he could do with such a big-time budget, and I must say that he did not disappoint.
The visuals in Pacific Rim are second to none, and Del Toro has outdone himself in creating truly terrifying beasts. The Kaijuu, as they are called in the film, are movie-monsters that make Godzilla look like a lumpy lizard.
(We've come a long way)
It's almost hard to root against them sometimes due to sheer bad-assness. The fact that each one is different also adds dramatically to the overall spectacle. Mowing down hordes of stormtroopers or similarly homogenous baddies is nowhere near as exciting as tackling a unique creature in every battle.
You might think you'd get tired of robots whomping on monsters for two hours, but the action ramps up perfectly throughout the film as the Kaijuu “evolve” and force desperate tactics from the heroes. The fights are highly engaging, even eliciting audible cheers from the audience on more than one occasion. Del Toro truly achieves connection on a visceral level. These are fight scenes that you can feel.
Another major success for Pacific Rim was the comic relief provided by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman. Cards on the table, I'm something of a Charlie Day fanboy from his absolutely brilliant work on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but I think everyone will enjoy him in this movie. His scenes with Ron Perlman of Sons of Anarchy fame are particularly great. I won't say he steals the show, not by a longshot, but the levity he brings was integral to the film's success.
And this was definitely a film in need of levity. Not only does it begin on a fairly dark note, it's also a classic “turn off your brain and enjoy” kind of movie. One aspect of the film that definitely could have been improved upon was the number of plot-holes and inconsistencies. I do my best to suspend my disbelief, but there were some moments in Pacific Rim that are hard to swallow, and I'm not even talking about the idea of mind-melding with someone to control a robot together. Let's just say that Mystery Science Theater 3000 could have some fun with this one.
The only other weakness of Del Toro's film is the character development, but frankly, I didn't go see this movie expecting an oscar-contender, so I can't really fault him for that. Idris Elba is the big fish in the small pond of talent in this film. He gives a strong performance, though I have to wonder if he isn't losing his natural British accent from pretending to be an American so often. The rest of the cast, notably Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi, are unremarkable at best.
So if you can overlook some plot-holes like avoidable martyrdom, unexplained changes of heart, and a little bit of deus ex machina, then Pacific Rim will absolutely blow you away with its visuals. It is a spectacle in the purest sense of the word. Go see it.