It’s been a long wait. And, despite some shortcomings, I’m going to deem it worth it. At least in the format that I experienced it in, which was my first ever IMAX 3D. 300 foot robots, battling 300 foot lizards, on a huge screen with pulsating sound, and images reaching out to almost touch you? Does that sound dull? And the visionary mind of the superb Guillermo del Toro(“Pan’s Labyrinth”, “Hellboy”)is certain to make most of it work, right? Throw in what amounts to an extended cameo by the awesome Ron Perlman(a del Toro staple), and there’s no way you can miss this. That’s how I’ve felt for months, and Guillermo mostly delivers. It’s kind of dumb, with just a little bit of smarts. And it’s not only LOUD, but the 3D was so impressive that it appeared things were going to fall into my lap(I was startled more than once). Oh, it ain’t subtle…not by a long shot. But it sure did sing to the 12-year old boy still trapped inside of me. There are areas where it is absolutely AWESOME. And damned if it doesn’t manage some occasional poignancy too. Also, with an acknowledged homage to the Godzilla films of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, plus a dedication to the late, great, effects maestro, Ray Harryhausen—I mean you HAVE to visit this on the big screen.
It’s the not-too-distant future, and the alien Kaijus have risen from a crevasse beneath the Pacific Ocean and leveled entire cities. When conventional military fails, the human population look to giant, fighting, robot machines that will come to be known as Jaegers. Each Jaeger is controlled by two human “pilots”, whose minds are neurally linked to “act as one” when it’s found that operating the massive machines is too much to handle for the brain of a single occupant. Initially, the Jaegars manage to beat back the Kaiju attacks—until the monsters begin to emerge through the Pacific portal at a much faster rate. As the governments of the world begin to lose faith in the overwhelmed Jaegar army, a plan is hatched to build a gigantic retaining wall in an attempt to save the big cities from further Kaiju-caused destruction. When the success of this program proves unlikely, a strategy is devised to deposit a nuclear device in the beneath-the-Pacific canyon. And the four remaining Jaegars are put into action to carry it out—along with the finest Jaegar pilots available. That list includes Raleigh Becket(handsome Charlie Hunnam), commanding officer Stacker Pentecost( the authoritative Idris Elba), the sensitive female warrior Mako Mori(“Babel” Academy Award-nominee, Rinko Kikuchi)and arrogant Australian prodigy, Chuck Hansen(an effectively smarmy, Robert Kazinsky). Scientists Dr. Newton Geiszler(funnyman Charlie Day)and Dr. Herman Gottlieb(geeky Burn Gorman)combine forces to assist the pilots in carrying out their mission.
Is this the weakest Guillermo del Toro film? Possibly. But when the field includes the genre favorites, “Hellboy”, “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” and the insanely underappreciated, “Blade II”, something has to bring up the rear. Guillermo, of course, straddles that art/blockbuster divide beautifully, and has also managed to give us the wonderful Spanish-language films “Cronos”, “The Devil’s Backbone” and the astonishing, multiple award-winning(including three 2006 Oscars)”Pan’s Labyrinth”. Only the studio-manhandled “Mimic” from 1997 should be forbidden from joining their company when discussing quality(although I’ve heard the del Toro Blu-ray director’s cut is a vast improvement). So, yeah, I guess it’s not completely unfair to label “Pacific Rim” a sort-of “Transformers”-with-a-brain, but it wouldn’t be entirely accurate. For instance, I doubt any scene in that high-grossing, blockbuster franchise(I’ve managed to avoid all of the “Transformers” movies, so far)could trigger the emotional buttons as strongly as the sight of the young girl version of the Mako Mori character, running and crying through a crumbled city as she’s followed by a gargantuan Kaiju. It has a powerful resonance. And “Hellboy” Ron Perlman, one of our truly fantastic actors, is incredible as the black marketeer Hannibal Chau(be sure to stay through at least that first set of credits for a truly sensational postscript “treat”). This film is a remarkable visual achievement. And did I mention big, Big, BIG!!! Those monster vs. metal clashes are simply awe-inspiring. A little slumming scriptwise from del Toro(and co-screenwriter Travis Beacham), maybe? Well, it’s certainly no “Pan’s Labyrinth”. But my guess is that very few are expecting “Before Midnight” when attending “Pacific Rim”. It’s all about the crisply executed slam/bang. And it delivers that in oodles. Grade: B