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Review: Pacific Rim (2013) — A Big-Budget Movie Worth Getting Excited Over

Pacific Rim

This is a world where humanity is deep in a years long war with giant monsters, known as Kaiju; creatures that have emerged from deep beneath the ocean and have begun attacking major cities. These Kaiju have necessitated the design of unique weapons: enormous robots known as Jaegers, simultaneously controlled by two pilots, psychically linked to each other as well as the gigantic mechs, an act known as ‘drifting’. With mankind’s resources tapped, and the annihilation of the human race imminent, a washed-up Jeager pilot (Charlie Hunnam) and an untested rookie (Rinko Kikuchi) find themselves in a desperate last stand against the Kaiju, with the ultimate fate of the world at stake.

More believable than the Australian accents.

The first thing I can say about Pacific Rim is that it is a breath of fresh air among a sea of clunky, cynical, and dark blockbusters. In the world of irony-laced, mega-budget films, this is a film which relishes in its humanity and humility; it has a general sense of altruism which makes seeing big movies like these such an exciting experience. Director Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Cronos) has created pure spectacle, free of self-reference and cheeky nods.

To be fair, Pacific Rim is not breaking new ground when it comes to character archetypes and narrative tropes — these character arcs and relationships have been seen in many blockbusters before — but the key is that del Toro has presented everything in its purest, most perfect form. I do not mind derivative character arcs and plot points in my blockbusters as long as they remain true to the story and are not pandering to the audience. Remember, movies like Pacific Rim are not high art, they are designed for mass consumption, and the key to any successful blockbuster is entertainment. Pacific Rim is the best example of bombastic, pure entertainment I’ve seen in quite some time.

Let’s look at some of these characters: the main protagonist, Hunnam’s Raleigh Becket, is a former hotshot pilot called back to action when the world needs him, and will find redemption in the face of his past demons. Similarly, Kikuchi’s Mako Mori must also face her fears and exact revenge on the Kaiju that killed her family. Stacker Pentecost (silly name, Idris Elba) plays the seasoned pilot, now in charge of the Jaeger program, who also plays patriarch for both characters and may just have to lead by example by stepping back into the cockpit. There’s the hot-headed Australian pilot who clashes with the protagonist, only to eventually find mutual respect under a new alliance. The comic relief scientists (Charlie Day and Burn Gorman) provide plot details and exposition, as well as unexpected heroics. These are all things you could find in Joseph Campbell 101, but it is executed to expertly, and it is all in service of the film’s main draw-card: the awe-inspiring battles.

Recycled suits from GI Joe?

The way these epic battles have been constructed is simply fantastic. First del Toro presents a terrific world-building prologue which goes a long way to establishing a believable universe where colossal battles have become the norm. Although many people may complain about the prevalent use of rain and water effects during the battles, if find that these elements are exactly what give the monstrosities a real sense of weight and scale, something which was missing from the similar robots of the Transformers films. When these towering behemoths interact with the environment, the massive amounts of destruction is felt, but never in a meaningless way, such as in Man of Steel. There were moments when I found myself jaw ajar, in wonder of these fantastic encounters. If this is possible for a jaded twenty-something film fan, ten-year old me would be absolutely giddy after seeing this film.

As is the downfall of many big-budget films, the greatest effects in the world mean nothing unless you have a genuine investment in the characters. As cookie-cutter as they may be, the relationships between characters succeed in actually making the audience care, which in turn adds further investment into the action scenes. Given the generic nature involved, I give props to the actors for elevating the material. I particularly like the recurring theme of two opposed characters working together for a greater cause, symbolised by the dual-control piloting system — the ‘drifting’ — of the Jaegers.

The score by Game of Thrones maestro Ramin Djawadi is appropriately grandiose, and the cinematography del Toro’s fellow Guillermo and frequent collaborator, Guillermo Navarro, does not lose the characters and creatures in the action despite the usually dark settings.

It remains to be seen if Pacific Rim will be financially successful, but the important part is that it is a mighty film, one that should capture the wonder and imagination of young and old alike. It is truly deserving of a place on the mantle next to the great giant monster movies like Godzilla that so inspired it. Highly recommended.

Llama Score: 9This is a tremendous spectacle of a movie, and a refreshingly earnest take on original material in a world filled with irony and adaptations. Pacific Rim deserves to eventually be mentioned among the all-time great blockbusters, such as Jurassic Park or Star Wars. A visual treat with strong, positive messages and enduring characters; this is a film for the young and the young at heart.

Award: Golden LlamaAward: Stan WinstonAward: Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez

Highlights Banner

– Incredible, jaw-dropping action.

– Brings the fun back into big budget blockbusters.

Lowlights Banner

– Although very well executed, character archetypes and narrative tropes are prevalent.

– Hollywood still hasn’t figured out an Australian accent (while Sam Worthington still hasn’t figured out an American accent).

Further Viewing Banner

Godzilla (1954), or any films from the Toyo library.

Top Gun (seriously).

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro Written by: Travis Beacham, Guillermo del Toro Produced by: Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Guillermo del Toro, Mary Parent Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Rob Kazinsky, Max Martini, Ron Perlman Distributed by: Warner Bros Run length: 132 minutes Australian Release: 11 July 2013
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  1. The Best Films of 2013 | Sorry I'm Late.com

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