In some ways the experience of watching Pacific Rim calls for a slightly different review. One with less structure, form and insight than most. However, still one that’s fun to be around.
Monsters fight robots in Pacific Rim. That’s the best thing about it. Monstrous alien sea monsters versus large mecha-robots. Like the ending to Aliens but times a thousand.
If you can’t see how monsters fighting aliens could hold a movie together it’s probably best you don’t bother with Pacific Rim. It’s a film that reminded me a lot of Avatar. One with more flaws than a chipped and fading antique, but a film with some unforgettable, breath-taking sights.
CGI has often been accused of ruining the ‘physicality’ of cinema. However, when handled properly it’s also given us some truly amazing visual scenes. Like the T-Rex in Jurassic Park or the blowing up of the White House in Independence Day. Such sights don’t make great films, but they do show filmmakers trying to amaze and impress the audience with something original.
The genius of Pacific Rim, like so much of del Toro’s work (e.g. Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy) is in character design of the monsters on show. Every one is individual and feels as real and ‘physical’ as any CGI monster or robot has ever seemed.
So much of the rest of the film is average at best. The characters have obviously had thought put into them. There’s plenty of skeletons in closets and words that remain unsaid. However, the dialogue is painful in places. I spent much of the film wondering what witty line Joss Whedon would have given each character at this or that point. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the narrative of the film, more that it feels like the script’s been translated from another language and has lost all of its flavour and colour in the process.
Did I mention robots fight monsters? Let’s just pause and remember that for a second. The joy of seeing two humungous creatures doing battle and crashing into sea, buildings, bridges as they do so.
In between all that the film is plotted reasonably well. The beginning in particular does a good job at creating a believable world where the alien threat has become a part of everyday life and the world must now choose how to react to it (They choose to build giant robots obviously). There’s even a hint that the aliens may represent global warming at one point; giant walls being constructed to cope with the rising threat from the oceans.
Then robots fight monsters. Not the tame type of fights you see humans take part in, with a black eye being the worst people seem to come away with. No, limbs get taken apart, skulls get crushed, bodies get pummelled into the ground. For something so obviously fake it demonstrates the consequences of unbridled violence remarkably well.
So Pacific Rim then. It’s kinda like watching a drunk guy trying to cross the road. It stumbles, but never falls, slurs its words, but you’re always on its side, and when it reaches its conclusion there’s a joy inside you that’s hard to explain.
Oh and monsters fight robots.