I missed Pacific Rim when it was in the cinemas. I had initially been drawn to it, given that it was a Guillermo del Toro project — and let’s be honest, that man is a genius. Hell Boy is the benchmark for comic adaptations, and Pan’s Labyrinth still gives me chills.
But for whatever reason I never actually made it to the cinema. It happens occasionally. But now, thanks to the magic of home DVD, I have rectified that oversight. Late to the party, yes, but don’t worry: I brought pithy comments!
Housekeeping first: Pacific Rim is set in a world which is terrorised by giant monsters (kaiju) emerging from a dimensional rift on the floor of the Pacific ocean. In response, giant robots called jaegers are built, piloted by two people through a neural link, to fight the kaiju. The film follows former pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam), who is brought back into service as the jaeger programme is being wound down in favour of a “costal wall” solution. The programme leader, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), plans to launch an attack to close the rift once and for all…
So, before I get properly into what I thought of it, I have to admit that the premise requires a lot of suspension of disbelief. The premise makes a lot of jumps.
- If you’re being attacked by massive aliens monsters, then is your first thought to combat this really going to be build giant robots to duke it out with them?
- And would your first instinct be to make them humanoid?
- If you accept that giant humanoid robots are the best way to solve the problem, then why would you put the pilots in the robot? Is there something wrong with remote piloting?
- If you are an invading alien race sending monsters to pacify the indigenous species, why would you send them one at a time? Particularly when the indigenous lifeforms start fighting back?
- And just how stupid do you have to be in order to think that a wall is going to keep the kaiju out? And to continue to insist so, even when a kaiju breaks through the wall?
Which looks like a lot. In truth, it is a lot. But the magic about film is that if it’s done right, none of that matters. A film can have plot holes big enough to pilot a jaeger through, but if it is fun and entertaining then it doesn’t matter as much. This was weirdly true of Prometheus. And it is true of Pacific Rim.
Because whilst Pacific Rim isn’t a perfect film, it is fun. The jaeger fights are exciting, the monster designs are imaginative-yet-traditional, and it is well aware of its heritage as a monster movie. Charlie Humman isn’t the most exciting character, but as a focus of the film he blows Godzilla‘s Aaron Taylor-Johnson away. Meanwhile, Ron Pearlman’s role is small, but he’s a treat as always, and Idris Elba reinforces his status as one of my favourite actors in a fantastic performance as Marshall Pentecost — his St Crispin’s Day speech is the right combination of scenery chewing and inspirational.
Del Toro knows what he’s doing. He knows what the people want, and he gives it to them; plenty of air-punching moments, and a lot of monsters and robots. It’s not Shakespeare, but it’s bloody entertaining.
And do you know what? It shows that this sort of thing can be fun. Because I absolutely loathed Michael Bay’s Transformers films. They were a whirlwind of blurry action, sexism, and lowest common denominator wit. Anti-entertainment. But that is not what Pacific Rim was. Pacific Rim was a good film.