Opening 18 Jul 2013
Who would have thought that a movie about giant robots fighting alien space monsters could be so downright enjoyable? Guillermo del Toro brings the giant monster movie back with a vengeance in Pacific Rim, where humans have built giant robots to fight off the increasing attacks of sea monsters that come from a rift in the Pacific Ocean. After years of fighting the monsters, a former pilot of giant robots and a new trainee get together to put in one last ditch effort to kill the monsters, before humanity is wiped off the Earth forever.
It sounds kitschy, and it is, but this doesn’t stop it from being quite possibly the most enjoyable summer blockbuster this season. It is undoubtedly unoriginal, not only because it is a clear result of films like Godzilla (1954) and Transformers (2007), but also in its similarity to other popular franchises (such as the Japanese anime Neon Genesis Evangelion ). That being said, it doesn’t ever claim originality, in a way, it unapologetically revels in the fact that it is a direct culmination of all clichéd alien vs. human films made before it. There is a definitive point in the film, where Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), the leader of the group of resistance fighters, stands up before the crowd and gives a speech a la Independence Day (1994). This speech is not only similar in theme (the last hope for humans against an alien attack), but even the rhythm of the delivery is the same. Add that to the fact that the aliens have a hive mind, the leader joins in on the fighting for the final battle and two heroes end up saving the day… well, it is clearly not an original script.
However, there is something about the unabashed spectacle of Pacific Rim that takes from boring rehash of overused tropes and plot devices, and turns it into the perfect popcorn film. It is loud, it is silly, and inexplicably, it is really cool. The CGI is often stunning, especially with the interesting character designs for the monsters. While here is some cultural stereotyping – the Russians use the old, clunky robot and whenever they fight there is that typical men’s choir Russian music played – there are some instances where action film clichés are torn asunder such as with the relationship between lead characters Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam) and Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi). Just when you think the film is about to fall into cliché, it does something different.
To call Pacific Rim a good film might be unrealistic. The acting is not always the best (Charlie Hunnam’s American accent being particularly poor), but the writing is original and the plot is typical for the genre. Nevertheless, there is something about it that makes it almost childishly fun, and this makes it a successful film. It succeeds in accomplishing all it set out to be, which is to be a fun sci-fi action film with cool robots and even cooler monsters. A viewer with more subtle taste might want to give Pacific Rim a miss, but everyone else who is searching for pure, unadulterated fun… well, this is the movie for you. (Rose Finlay)