Movie Review: Pacific Rim

Published on July 15th, 2013 in: Action Movies, Current Faves, Movie Reviews, Movies, Reviews, Science Fiction |

By Less Lee Moore

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It’s summertime, which means some film fans are complaining that theaters are overrun with blockbusters, even though it’s a trend that’s existed since the ’90s and one that doesn’t seem to be losing any momentum. While it’s true that in many cases, Hollywood tentpoles focus more on big-budget effects than on a decent narrative, Pacific Rim is a delightful surprise that will remind you how enjoyable a truly well-done blockbuster film can be.

The story isn’t that original—giant monsters are attacking the world’s big cities and there is a global effort to combat them with giant robots—but on the other hand, it’s still something that we haven’t seen in mainstream, Hollywood cinema in quite this form. One can catch hints of Transformers, Iron Man, Thor, The Avengers, and even Independence Day and that old atomic chestnut, Godzilla, in the plot of Pacific Rim, but its visuals are on a level that is not only breathtaking but also specific to the world created in the film.

Director Guillermo del Toro knows how to tell a good story, even if that story has been told in other iterations before Pacific Rim. He wisely checks off all the boxes in the “action movie” list: intimidating commander; loose cannon hero; troubled father/son dynamics; past tragedies; macho rivalries; brainy oddballs; and yes, there’s even a dog.

However, del Toro makes it interesting with subtle casting choices. Stacker Pentecost, the stern, tough as nails Marshall, is portrayed with awesome finesse by Idris Elba, a Brit with parents from Sierra Leone and Ghana. Charlie Hunnam, who plays pilot Raleigh Becket, is a white dude, but his new co-pilot is a Japanese woman (Rinko Kichuki as Mako Mori). And what about those names? They’re just bizarre enough to be memorable but not so weird that you’ll have trouble following the story.

Charlie Day, who’s such a screw-up on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, is Dr. Newton Geizler, a nerdy/cool scientist, who butts heads with British mathematician Dr. Hermann Gottleib (Burn Gorman), resulting in hijinks and laughs. Ron Perlman is featured in an amazing cameo that I won’t ruin for you, but let’s just say it’s the perfect role for him (if tantalizingly brief).

In order to allow kids to witness the glorious spectacle of Pacific Rim, the language is fairly tame and there are no sexual situations or romance (thank goodness) to distract us from all of the heart pounding action. I can’t remember being this enthralled with a big-budget action move in a long time.

Pacific Rim isn’t perfect: There is some clunky dialogue and a couple of the scenes with emotional heft carry on for a few more beats than they should, but neither of these issues torpedo the film. It’s big, beautiful, exciting, hilarious, and just plain fun. You can’t complain that Hollywood has forgotten how to make movies if you haven’t seen Pacific Rim. It’s not an art film, but it is artfully crafted and utterly enjoyable.

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