Rating: 3.5 of 5
Pacific Rim is soooo cool!
That was my initial impression when they showed footage at Comic Con last year, and also the strongest reaction I had leaving the theater today. (I’m glad I saw it opening weekend. Because unique ideas are becoming so rare in summer blockbusters and this is a good one. a little scary every now and then because those kaiju aren’t joking around.) But I was also impressed that in the midst of a giant monsters vs. giant robots movie there’s a human element to it.
The concept is giant monsters (kaiju) vs. giant robots (jaeger) but that’s not all there is to this movie (despite the trailers). The story is about the people in this world and what’s required of them and what it costs. The characters are solid and maybe not as completely well drawn as I would have liked, but strong enough to carry this movie and to be interesting. They have enough depth and history and I wanted even more of that (and more complexity) but there just wasn’t time.
Which is kind of funny, because I was just telling Kel how cool I thought it was that Pacific Rim is only 2:10.
The other thing I wanted more of was the drift. These pilots have a neural bridge while they’re in the jaegers which links them to each other’s memories, completely. I didn’t want to spend more time in the memories but I wanted more depth on the impact of the drift. How do these characters react to one another differently after having been inside each other’s heads? How does it change what and how they feel? What is the shift that’s created that first time? And then how do they handle it again? I wanted more resonance in all of that.
Still, the characters anchor the story and the kaiju and jaegers fighting is just sooooo cool! Giant monsters and robots isn’t even my thing at all but seeing them up on screen battling it out kind of made me giddy. A couple of times when it was dark it was a little hard to track, but there were other times when it was so clear and so much fun to watch.
The awesome thing is, Guillermo del Toro knows that even in the midst of these giant battles, we still need the human element which means we need a good fist fight. And he delivers because it’s a good fight. One of the better ones I’ve seen in a movie in a while.
My only complaint in the stunt/fight/action arena was that when the pilots are in Gipsy Danger and they have these powerful, simultaneous movements controlling this giant robot there’s too many cgi displays around them. There was just too much going on onscreen to really see their movements and feel the impact of what they’re doing. Maybe I think that because the footage we saw at Comic Con had a more unobstructed view but I just remember seeing the pilots step a few times and it being this powerful thing I wanted more of and I feel like it actually got less visceral in the film.
But other than that, the production was top notch. The music was really, really good. I want to buy half the score right now and am kind of bitter that I can’t get the song in the end credits or the one from the beginning anywhere, really. yet. I loved that del Toro did most of it with practical effects because it makes everything feel that much more substantive and real and less like a cartoon. And the gritty feel to the world was great. For a moment in the beginning it felt a little like Battlesar Galactica in that they’re both worn down, lived in worlds. You couldn’t sustain it as a tv show, but in some ways I wanted that from it – that time to really develop and enjoy these characters and this world. Maybe in a few years someone will pull a Stargate SG-1 with it and figure out a way to make it on tv.
As a film, it’s a good solid story with characters you care about, which maybe doesn’t make it a great movie but certainly makes it a very good summer blockbuster. Definitely in the vein of Independence Day in a lot of ways; without quite the same connection to the characters, but also darker in good ways.