Release date: July 12, 2013 (US/UK)
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Idris Elba, Ron Pearlman, Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi.
With a budget weighing in at $190million and the obvious comparisons being drawn with the Transformers franchise, this film had already polarised audiences long before it’s release. One camp firmly behind Guillermo del Toro’s ability to deliver his “beautiful poem to giant monsters” with tasteful use of CG to tell a story, and those still weary from their last two-and-a-half hour dose of watching computer game-like buildings explode. Del Toro seems to have addressed this conflict directly by somehow over-exaggerating every single action movie cliche imaginable. Whilst that might sound like what you would do if you were trying to make the worst film ever produced, in Pacific Rim’s Anime/80s cartoon universe, it works. Only just, and parts will make you cringe, but it works.
This is a film which you must want to like to be able to appreciate, and your relationship with del Toro is going to be much more rewarding the more you put into it. If you ever enjoyed Anime action cartoons as a child (or their western equivalents of the time) then you definitely have it in you to do this. Despite all the cliches and all the cheesy lines and predictability, you are not going to be able to stop yourself grinning with satisfaction as your favourite robot defiantly smashes it’s fists into increasingly dangerous human-hating marauding monsters.
On the most basic level the film’s characters are the monsters and robots (“Kaiju” and “Jaegers”), each with their own personalities and characteristics (and of course particular range of hi-tech weapons). The Jaegers and Kaiju are brought to life amazingly with CG, sound and setting used artfully to create believable weighting, balance and texture to the battling giants. One of my largest criticisms would be that we are introduced extensively to some Jaeger/pilot teams and then see hardly anything of them from then on. Weaved around the robot characters are the various stories about the robot pilots and the politics of a world facing ever-increasing numbers of monster attacks. Despite how farcical the characters are, each of the actors has been perfectly cast in their role and it is refreshing to see a film of this scale being acted out by a cast with no A-listers. As it’s our first journey into this universe, there is a lot of prequel/sequel groundwork being laid for the purposes of franchise-building, but I was surprised at the number of sub-plots and glad that many of the obvious questions were at least addressed – why/where are the monsters coming from, and how come giant robots are the most effective weapon?
To describe this movie as “Just mindless fun” would be selling it short. It has some depth to it, is an immense technical achievement and genuinely creates a universe which is fun to be in. If you’re looking for horrendous cliches and predictable characters then you’re looking in the right place, but they feel like they are where they’re supposed to be. It’s likely to be a disappointment to dedicated del Toro fans, but if you’re on-board with the concept then it will be a thoroughly enjoyable watch and leave you wanting more.
- Robots and monsters brought to live amazingly.
- Awe-inspiring battle sequences.
- Interesting universe with big potential for back-story and sequels.
- Go humans!
- Stinks of cheese.
- Every cliche in the book.
- Characters and subplots introduced and then unused.