STARRING: Charlie Hunnam, Diego
Klattenhoff, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman
2013, 131 Minutes, Directed by:
Guillermo del Toro
Rim is not a very good movie. That’s not to say that a lot of people aren’t
going to have a lot of fun watching it. If you are in touch with your inner
twelve year old and can check your brain at the door, you are going to have a
Guillermo del Toro divides his
time between Hollywood blockbusters and arthouse fare and has notched amazing
achievements with both. This is the director who made both
Pan’s Labyrinth. This time, though, he’s gone high concept. The movie is
essentially Godzilla vs.
Transformers. For some that’s going to be more
than enough. One doesn’t pop in the DVD for, say, Godzilla vs. Mecha-Godzilla
expecting to see The Seventh Seal.
The premise is that an undersea
rift in the Pacific Ocean has brought forth increasingly ferocious giant
monsters that are destroying coastal cities around the world. They are dubbed
kaiju from the Japanese word defining the whole genre of giant monster movies.
To fight back humanity has built the jaegers, from the German for hunter. The
jaegers are giant robots that require two humans to meld their minds with the
mechanism and each other in order to operate it.
That’s really all you need to
know. Yes, there are human characters who are given sketchy backstories, but you
won’t really care about them.
"Large special effects fighting each other . . ."
Raleigh (Charlie Hannum) lost
his brother in a fight with one of the kaiju. Stacker (Idris Elba) is the leader
of the human fighters who keeps popping pills to deal with some mysterious
injury inflicted in an earlier fight. Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) was rescued by
Stacker as a young girl and now helps train the jaegers. None of these
characters are much more than cardboard cutouts.
There are a couple scientists
(Charlie Day, Burn Gorman) who provide crucial information late in the film but
who are essentially there for comic relief. Thank goodness for Ron Perlman who
chews the scenery in fine style as Hannibal Chau, a shady dealer who markets in
the remains of dead kaiju. His scenes come to life in a way that very little
else does in the film.
That’s the problem.
exists primarily for the battle scenes between the kaiju and the jaegers and
then does everything it can to make them difficult to follow. They take place
mostly at night, often in the rain when not underwater, and are edited in such a
way that it’s often difficult to know what precisely is going on except that two
large special effects are fighting each other. Are those pieces flying away part
of the kaiju, part of the robot, or simply pieces of yet another city being
trashed in one of this summer’s movies? Who can tell? At one point one of the
jaegers turns out to have a hidden sword that proves an effective weapon and one
can only wonder why it wasn’t used earlier.
So, if you are all hopped up
Pacific Rim because you can’t imagine more fun than giant monsters battling
giant robots, go and enjoy yourself. Just don’t expect it to make much sense
logically, narratively or visually. It’s not a very good science fiction movie,
but it is a heck of an amusement park ride.
Daniel M. Kimmel is a
veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His first
novel, Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s
Guide has just been released. He teaches film at Suffolk University and
lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.
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