Oh anticipation, thou art a heartless bitch at times. You fill our hearts with hope and our minds with thoughts of endless possibility, building our excitement to the levels which make disappointment all but inevitable. From a philosophical angle, this is just another version of the desire paradox; If you can only want what you don’t have, you will never truly have what you want. From a movie fanatic’s angle, all it means is that most of the movies you can’t wait for in any given year will end up letting you down. The trap of skillfully marketed movies has claimed a lot of otherwise good movies over the past year, from last year’s Prometheus to last month’s Man of Steel, and I’ve had an uneasy feeling for months that the same fate might befall the greatest Nergasm of 2013; Pacific Rim. Unfortunately, while it’s I may not have been very far off. It has all the Monsters Vs. Robots action that you’d expect from the trailers, but a weak script leads the pack of flaws that collectively make Pacific Rim yet another addition to the list of very good movies that should have been great in 2013.
The Plot: 8/10
As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.
Setting aside how obviously amazing the premise is, the plot is still well above par for action movies like this. The main plot element of “Kill the Kaiju” is pretty straightforward, but it’s also refreshingly direct and makes it easy to focus on what really matters; watching monsters and giant robots beat the crap out of each other. What surprised me was how little of the plot was given away by the trailers, as nearly all the exposition given by Charlie Hunnan’s voice overs in the marketing material is covered within the first five minutes or so. Instead of watching the first wave of attacks and the subsequent development of the Jaeger program, we instead enter in about twelve years afterwards as the giant robots are about to be defunded and replaced by massive sea walls (which, by the way, is absolutely idiotic and never fully explained). This fast forward prevents the plot from getting bogged down by exposition and lets it get on with the fun bits.
The Writing: 5/10
I’ve always been a stickler for bad writing, and I don’t believe that any movie should be held to a lower standard in this area even when that movie has a premise as ridiculous(ly awesome) as this. Unfortunately, Pacific Rim had the misfortune to have Travis Beacham, aka the writer of Clash of the Titans, and it shows in a lot of the dialogue. The worst by far in this area is the relationship dynamic between Raleigh and Mako. It seemed like Del Toro and Beacham couldn’t decide whether or not to make them romantic or platonic, and they tried for an awkward mix of both. The same confused characterization applies to Mako, who ranges from shyness to vengeful determination to horny schoolgirl with no transition whatsoever. I’m not saying that all female leads in action movies have to be badasses, but whatever they were going for here instead just wasn’t working for me here.
The Acting: 7/10
The movie’s serious tone would have only worked if the acting behind it was up to par, and for the most part it is. I’ve already mentioned my issues with Rinko Kikuchi’s odd, slightly unstable performance as Mako, but the other weak spot of the acting for me was Charlie Hunnam. Hunnam just doesn’t have the kind of charisma or dramatic presence to carry the movie’s human side, and while he wasn’t anywhere near Taylor Kitsch levels of acting he still left no real lasting impression on me whatsoever. Luckily, the supporting cast is present in nearly every scene to save the day. As a huge Luther fan, I’ll pretty much watch anything Idris Elba’s in without much coercion, and as a result it’s not entirely surprising that he ended up being my favorite part of the cast. I for one would be 100% on board with a prequel devoted to his character’s origins, though the film’s disappointing take at the Box Office this weekend may prevent that or any other sequel material from becoming a reality.
The Action: 9/10
I always respect movies that follow through with the promises made by their trailers, and in that area Pacific Rim deserves nothing but the highest praise. The visual effects are spectacular and the fight scenes, while occasionally a little Transformers-ish and somewhat repetitive, rival Man of Steel for the best of the year so far. The Kaiju are some of the coolest movie monsters I’ve ever seen, and are completely up to Guillermo Del Toro’s standard of brilliant weirdness. It’s incredibly refreshing to see the monster movie genre become cool again after it was nearly destroyed by Roland Emmerich’s colossal turd of a Godzilla remake in 2003. I can only hope that Gareth Edwards’ upcoming remake of that franchise will keep the ball rolling on this front.
My only reason for not giving the movie a 10/10 here is that there were a few too many minor issues I had along the course of the movie to be brushed off as nothing. A few are pretty inconsequential, like the fact that we barely get to see the full squad of Jaegers in action together before Gipsy Danger takes the center stage. Some are less inconsequential, like the complete lack of explanation for why the united governments of the world would de-fund their most effective weapon against the Kaiju in favor of an obviously flawed alternative. My biggest complaint on the action side is that nearly all the fight sequences take the form of bare/brass-knuckle brawls in which Kaiju and Jaeger each try to bludgeon each other to death. Each fight starts out this way, but the killing blow is almost always truck with either the Jaeger’s plasma cannon or its massive sword-arm This leads to the question; why the hell are you risking your life and mechanical limb getting in a fist-fight when you could instead just start out with the strategy that actually works? Come on people, this stuff is important…
The Verdict: 7.5/10 – Superior
+ A much needed return to form for the mainstream monster movie genre
+ Incredibly entertaining (if slightly repetitive and illogical) fight sequences
+ Idris Elba is a Boss, and Charlie Day is solid comic relief
– The writing often dips into the cheesy and awkward, i.e. Mako and Raleigh
Rotten Tomatoes: 72 %
Tim’s Film Reviews: 100%
The Filmster: 5/5
The Cinematic Katzenjammer: 9.6/10
The Focused Filmographer: 4.5/5
The Code is Zeek: 4/5
Black Sheep Reviews: 4/5
Keith and the Movies: 4/5
Amonymous Reviews: 3.5/5
Fast Film Reviews: 3.5/5
KCG Movie Reviews: 3.5/5
Cinematic Corner: 51/100
Average: 7.9/10 – Pretty Damn Great