Just when I thought my anticipation for giant robot movies had been absolutely slaughtered by the Transformers movies, along comes a movie that made me hear the heartbeats under the floorboards.
Deserving of neither its moderate flop status at the box office or its christening as the “best movie of the summer” by geeks across the land, Pacific Rim is a fun, fun movie. Far from a perfect one, but fun none the less.
The thing that keeps Pacific Rim so enjoyable (and head and shoulders above Michael Bay’s wretched film abortions) is the enthusiasm that went into it. There’s not an ounce of cynicism to be found in Guillermo Del Toro’s love letter to classic kaiju movies and other material in the mythology. It’s a shame that it even needs to be pointed out but if a filmmaker has decent material and is happy to make their movie, that same enjoyment will find its way to audience members.
This is the biggest asset Pacific Rim has — its material is decent but the glee of its director elevates it to something more than that.
Pacific Rim is a big-screen cartoon. Everyone expects this for what they came to see (giant robots punching giant monsters) but where it’s really apparent is actually in the story and human elements. We pick up the story, not at the beginning of the kaiju invasion, but at the ending days.
Whereas almost every other blockbuster nowadays opt to start at the origin in hopes of a trilogy, having PR feature the end of this saga is refreshing, like jumping back into a familiar tv series after a while once it’s approaching its final story arc.
Similarly, the human element of the movie is just as simple and in-line with the source material as the robots they’re inhabiting. Two main characters with a traumatic past, the badass general, the kooky/crazy scientists, the flashy criminal — all these one dimensional characters are present, yet actually fun to watch because the movie knows what it is.
Idris Elba, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman — each character steals the show at least once… with the exception of the two leads. “Not-Heath Ledger” and “Still kind of struggling with English” are given the thankless hero task and may have had some depth in a movie that didn’t go for the simple and sweet approach. As is, they’re left to get the job done and nothing more.
The action is big and ridiculous but thankfully not a completely incomparable mashing of garbage. These massive Jaegers have weight to them, allowing for some time to soak in the layout of the piece. The camera is put in a place where most everything can be taken in, yet only the Hong Kong throwdown and news clips from a brief skirmish are the only brawls that are completely understandable to the eye.
Every other action piece is obscured by the cloak of night and a thick curtain of rain. I’m guessing the final battle was cool since barely anything was comprehensible. Unlike the rain and nighttime, having the final fight take place under water made sense from a story angle but from a visual angle, the dark, murky atmosphere and separate battles going on forced into crappy action territory whereas the rest of the movie was doing mostly exceptional on visuals.
All of the monsters looking exactly the same and movie running a lot longer than necessary don’t really help matters any but this may just be a movie to give some leverage to. Had Del Toro taken this project on as an obligation or an easy money-maker, the whole perception of the movie would have been skewed.
Instead, it’s just a movie for everyone involved with to have fun with, behind the camera and in the audience. There’s no cynical approach, no dumb/inappropriate jokes — just simple, true to its roots popcorn entertainment. And sometimes that’s something to be commended.