Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Charlie Day, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Clifton Collins Jr., Ron Perlman
Running Time: 2 hrs 12 mins
Release Date: July 12, 2013
PLOT: When mankind is terrorized by kaiju, monsters from another dimension, human beings build towering robots to fight for and protect planet Earth.
WHO’S IT FOR? People who can name more than three Transformers, and/or like numerous anime shows about giant robots fighting for mankind.
Pacific Rim is a film that makes one feel like some promising directors take up Hollywood archetypes for selfish ways. They know they can think outside the box, but they want to have their own generic hero, kooky scientist (del Toro has two), and/or scene in which the main hero must throw themselves into a dangerous situation to manually active the Important Bomb that somehow malfunctions during game time. Pacific Rim has a weird, unfortunate habit of pandering to its audience, and simultaneously to its creators’ brainpower, especially from a filmmaker who knows the fun of embracing expectations is in playing against them. Instead, del Toro has created a film that plays too readily into the categorization for disposable films, like he wanted to make a “big budget summer movie of the week.”
Too readily, the visionary components within the promise of such a director are exchanged for the predictable. Take his casting, for example, which includes a bland non-star (Charlie Hunnam, who is apparently on Sons of Anarchy), who provides zero amount of flavor to a typical setup. In a way that seems to feel like taunting his audience, this tall blonde-haired man is then shown opposite two other tall blonde-haired men (who are father and son), the three of which can provide a not-fun game in trying to discern them from each other. From the very start, in which he pops out of bed to take a minute just to put on his shirt, Hunnam is humorless and colorless, a heavily forgettable stand-in for a job that numerous other non-expensive, yet more notable actors, could occupy instead. Failing to make a big introduction on the shoulders of such a massive movie, Hunnam is the “dust in the wind” of a breeze created by huge robots fighting big monsters.
While I continue to root for him to evolve beyond a TV character, Charlie Day continues to box himself into a twitching character with random outbursts, carrying over his core characteristics that make for good wacky comedy on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” He disappointed by doing the same twitchy clown in Horrible Bosses, and he plays right into low expectations with Pacific Rim, despite his saddling with the movie’s science, its most inventive and surprising aspect.
As he was in Prometheus last summer, Idris Elba continues to be a strong presence even when weaker aspects surround him. He holds his ground even in a third act troop-rousing speech that tests the film’s wading of cheesy waters. The casting of Rinko Kikuchi functions fine as well, her character bringing in yet another personal element with these monsters. In certain aspects, she is out-shined by the younger version of herself, who shares time with a barren city street to create one of the movie’s more resonant moments.
The spottiness of his casting gravely effects the movie’s promise, which waste space in Pacific Rim before the film can eventually find itself enjoying its main course, which plays out well over the last forty minutes or so. Of no help to this emotional indifference created by such casting is the visual quality of the film, Pacific Rim’s heavily digital look (as shot on Red cameras) making any scene not involving monster combat looking more ready for cable TV than a cinematic experience. This heavily digitized look takes away from the film’s crucial element of grit – these bots may be “digital,” but they are assembled piece by piece by man. Even the production design has its goals cheapened by such an appearance, with the rusting hallways appearing more like they suffer from unruly brown paint splotches. You can only imagine then, how extremely thrilling certain lulls of this movie are, with its overly darkened smooth palette, in which actors like Hunnam or his two blonde clones are attempting to develop a surface-level drama whilst standing in such scenery.
Thankfully, digital definitely does not damn Pacific Rim in terms of its most direct pleasure. The movie’s obsessively designed robot scuffles make for mostly thorough entertainment, even though a cohesive picture is not readily available to viewers once a plural amount of good robots or bad alien thugs get into the mix. Close-ups turn out to be the movie’s friend, soaking up the insane detail to the environment of when things are destroyed, but also the movie’s enemy when entire shots are lost to lacking visual sense. But yes, if you want to look at this movie in a monumentally simple sense, then yeah, Pacific Rim does indeed feature the visual of giant robots fighting bad aliens, and it done look really good when the the big computer man stabs the bigger hammerhead shark lizard alien. One of my favorite moments involves a tanker being used as a club, in a battle that turns Hong Kong into an arena. But considering this is from the director of Pan’s Labyrinth, I was hoping to be praising bigger things.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10