It’s been a very long time since I thoroughly enjoyed a summer blockbuster. But then again, Pacific Rim is directed by Guillermo Del Toro, the man who brought us the excellent The Devil’s Backbone (1997), Mimic (2001), Hellboy (2004), and my personal favourite Pan’s Labyrinth (2006).
Pacific Rim is just so good because of Del Toro’s trademark attention to character development. So few action oriented directors care about fully rounded characters these days that it is a relief to watch the ensemble cast in this film, all of whom are particularly charming and interesting in their very own ways.
While the film’s premise is preposterous enough, chronicling the onslaught of the Kaijus - monstrous, enormous creatures who have invaded the earth from a crack in the Pacific rim which leads to another galaxy - and the subsequent fight back by us humans who create gigantic Transformer type robots called Jaegers to retaliate, again, it is the characters who hook us so thoroughly to the film.
The obligatory male lead is the very attractive Charlie Hunnam who plays Raleigh Becket, a former Jaeger fighter who lost his brother in an ugly brawl with a Kaiju. Since the Jaegers need to be piloted by two people, Raleigh goes off the grid after his brother’s death, working on massive coastal walls designed to keep out the Kaiju.
Five years later he is recruited back into the Jaeger team by his former boss Stacker Pentecost (the always great Idris Elba) to resuscitate and pilot his beloved Jaeger called Gipsy Danger when it becomes apparent that the Kaiju onslaught is in fact far from over as was previously thought.
Back at the Jaeger base in Hong Kong, Raleigh must find a new co-pilot and since the Jaeger’s are piloted by the two hemisphere’s of two different people’s brains (don’t ask, I can’t explain it either), this task, usually performed by siblings, father-son duo’s or lovers is not an easy one for which to find a partner. Enter Mako Mori (played by Rinko Kikuchi) – Pentecost’s protégée and a highly skilled fighter in her own right. Mako and Stacker have a touching backstory that reveals itself over the course of the film in an incredibly well structured and well written script that avoids all the usual pitfalls of the summer money making machines, including the usually god-awful climactic (anti rather) showdown.
So settle in for a great film, one that doesn’t insult our intelligence and manages to combine affect with humour without sinking to a puerile level. You’ll find yourself avidly watching the film and when it ends immediately wanting to rewind and re-watch some of the really juicy parts (most of them involve Hunnam’s beautiful torso). And just for counterpoint, in case I have waxed a little too poetic about what is after all fairly superficial cinema, perhaps the only real criticism I have for Pacific Rim is that some of the Kaiju are just a little less scary because they happen to be designed as oversized amphibians. That is all.