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PACIFIC RIM (review)

By Joe Yezukevich
Produced by Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni,
 Guillermo del Toro, Mary Parent
Screenplay by Travis Beacham, Guillermo del Toro
Story by Travis Beacham
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, 
Charlie Day, Rob Kazinsky, Max Martini, 
Ron Perlman, Clifton Collins, Jr.

Legendary Pictures / Warner Bros. / Rated PG-13

Pacific Rim is a movie that starts off running and refuses to relent until the end.

With giant robots fighting giant Kaiju beasts that make Monster Island look like The Muppet Show, it is the gold standard by which all sci-fi blockbusters should get made.

Except for the dialogue.

We are introduced to the main character Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam of Sons of Anarchy) through a voice over that lays down a history of how giant monsters began emerging from a dimensional rift in the depths of the Pacific Ocean some time in 2013.

 The world responded by banding together to create the giant robots called Jaegers (German for “Hunters”). The Jaegers are controlled through a neural network by pilot duos to allow a left and right brain control and because it is too much for one person to pilot alone. Raleigh pilots one with his brother who gets aced by a Kaiju as they are piloting, forcing Raleigh to pilot his Jaeger back to land by himself and setting him up as an outsider from the rest of the Jaeger pilots.

Flash forward five years later to a world giving up on the Jaeger program in favor of building giant walls around the Pacific Rim. However, the leader of the Jaeger program, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Alba of The Wire, Luther, Prometheus), has a blockbuster plan that could close the rift using the world’s few remaining Jaegers.

Elba’s Pentecost is just the leader the world needs in a time like this: focused, dedicated and willing to lose everything for his dream. This is the kind of character children want to grow up to be and he plays the part with unflinching conviction.

Most of the characters are fairly stock in trade (with the exception of Ron Pearlman’s fantastic black marketeer Hannibal Chau) and, let’s face it, will translate well in the upcoming video game tie-in. However, it is the robots that will make the video game exciting. Pacific Rim has some of the most bad ass robots to hit screens since Robotech or Force Five. The CGI portaying the robots battling the monsters is gorgeous, especially in the Battle for Hong Kong, which rages from the Pacific into the streets of Hong Kong. It is as mesmerizing as the Man of Steel battle between Zod and Superman and almost as destructive.

Is there anything besides the fighting?

Sure, there is a love story between Raleigh and his brother’s replacement pilot, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), Pentecost’s adopted daughter. There is the fighting/rivalry between Raleigh and fellow Yeager pilot, Chuck. There is the story of Stacker and his adopted daughter. There is the story of Geisler (Charlie Day of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and Gottlieb (Burn Gorman of Torchwood), two scientists battling each other over the right way to forecast the monster attacks.

These stories all tell tales of duos, whether or not they get along. In the end these stories are all about balance – like the left-right brain hemispheres that control our bodies or those of the Jaegers. The pilots connect consciousness in order to ably pilot a Jaeger as a duo and because of this connection, most of the time pilots are either closely related or have another similar bond with their co-pilot.

Guillermo del Toro has created in Pacific Rim a worthy successor to his visionary movies like Pan’s Labyrinth or Hellboy 2. The one thing that the movie lacks, but appears to strive for, is dialogue that might impress as much as the effects and mythology do.

If a sequel to this is made, I hope this blueprint is followed, except, maybe they could sharpen the speaking parts a bit?

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