A review by Nalini Haynes
This review of Pacific Rim is brought to you courtesy of LOTS OF CAFFEINE
Charlie Hunnam plays Raleigh Becket, a Jacks-(Sons of Anarchy)-type soldier fighting against Kaijus, illegal aliens, arriving on Earth through a rift deep in the Pacific Ocean. These alien monsters attempt to destroy humanity who are fighting back: battlelines are drawn at the Pacific Rim. The weapons in this particular war are gigantic robots called Jaegers, gigantic humanoid mecha, each controlled by two pilots whose minds are joined by a neural bridge called ‘the drift.’ Raleigh’s brother is killed in action leaving Raleigh without a partner to operate their Jaeger, so he becomes unemployed.
Raleigh joins a queue for a construction job very like the queues in the Depression Era: they work to eat and are employed when other workers are killed on the job. Last-ditch measures to protect the Earth result in Raleigh being recalled to Jaeger duty and being paired with Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), a novice Jaeger pilot.
Ron Perlman plays Hannibal Chau, a Clay-(Sons of Anarchy)-type character whose name is apparently based on a film (my first thought was Hannibal Lecter of Silence of the Lambs, indicating his ruthless selfish nature) and the name of a favourite restaurant. While obviously playing for Sons of Anarchy fans, del Toro refrains from having a Jacks/Clay confrontation in Pacific Rim, going instead for a more comedic geek versus evil underbelly crime boss confrontation.
Robert Kazinsky plays son Chuck Hansen to Max Martini’s father Herc Hansen. Chuck is an arrogant, selfish rock-star wannabe with daddy issues that I’d normally associate with a central character who has to work through issues while on the Hero’s Journey. In contrast Raleigh, the protagonist, has his shit sorted apart from a brief (less than 30 seconds) weakness in remembering his brother the first time Raleigh is back in a Jaeger after his brother’s death. After hearing so much about Man of Steel and other similar movies, I wonder if Hollywood is reacting against the uncertainty of the world at the moment by virtually removing the heroes’ weaknesses, thereby providing a rock-steady hero in a time of chaos and fear. Removing relatable weaknesses from the hero requires that aspect of character development be transferred to characters like Chuck and Mako.
Hours before watching Pacific Rim a friend unjustly maligned the movie on Facebook, falsely claiming that the monsters had obviously murdered all women because only one woman was left alive in the entire movie, and she got all the worst lines. Not so! Two whole women had speaking roles although they never spoke to each other. After the snark on Facebook (that I enjoyed, incidentally, in case the author in question reads this review) I was on the look-out for women everywhere, including as extras in crowd scenes. The construction site employing people to work for food appears to only allow men on site; presumably the women were all waiting at home like good little wives to be fed. Or they earn a fortune as comfort women in this time of war. Because the menz obviously had SO MUCH money to spend. There were a couple of women in crowd scenes and as wall paper on the Jaeger base, but they were way outnumbered.
Mako obviously acquired her job through nepotism, with her adoptive father being the boss and all, because Mako is the stereotypical timid, hesitant Japanese girl who should never have been put in charge of a group of people. Although I expected Mako to be brilliant at whatever challenges she faced to be selected for Jaeger duty, I found it a bit of a stretch that such a nervous individual could be so successfully decisive in hand-to-hand combat. Also: Cinderella trope much?
I expected more snappy dialogue in Pacific Rim along the lines of Hellboy, Die Hard and Indiana Jones; after all, del Toro wasn’t just a figurehead, he was a prime force in making Pacific Rim with directing, screen writing and producing credits. There were a couple of snappy lines and a few comedic scenes but del Toro preferred to keep characters focused and serious for Pacific Rim.
Actors’ Australian accents slide all over the place quite comically at times, with Australian slang sounding very wrong when accents travel to foreign climes. I doubt that Pacific Rim will earn award nominations for the acting but nominations are a certainty for the special effects.
The kaijus, or alien monsters, were more akin to monsters in horror movies than to villains in the superhero genre: devoid of personality, appearing only for spectacular ‘splodey battles, there is no personality conflict between humanity and the monsters. Even when the geeks learn why the kaijus are invading there is no real ramping up of the tension because what was coming was already inevitable. In this sense Pacific Rim has more in common with movies like Cloverfield than Man of Steel.
Pacific Rim unashamedly appropriates the Japanese giant mechanic versus monster trope, even going so far as to link the movie with this trope briefly with on-screen text. Del Toro has decided Japan has suffered enough so takes the destructive action away from Japan to Sydney harbour and Hong Kong.
May I say EPIC SQUEE for the monsters and mechas? Ok, the science behind the monsters SUCKED THE BIG ONE (it’s so bad it’s funny) but the monsters were gigantic creations with aspects of various real and imagined creatures. The mechas were as beautiful as mechas can be, with light playing off the armour as in Romantic paintings. Homage was paid to Red vs Blue as the mechas tended to have red lighting, especially when shit went wrong, while the aliens glowed blue from eyes, mouths, creases in their armour and their venom spewed across the screen.
The soundtrack accompanied the screen action brilliantly, building tension and conveying mood. Mechanical rumbles and explosions vibrated the floor beneath my feet and my chair; I’m seriously wondering if IMAX has speakers under the floor. If they don’t, then all I can say is their bass speakers are some SERIOUS SHIT.
The IMAX large screen experience was awesome as usual, creating an immersive experience. Pacific Rim’s 3D isn’t as good as Avatar but then, what movie’s is? The fast-paced action was a bit too fast to be effective in the 3D at times but the ‘splodey stuff was epic in size and spectacularity. (Is that a word?) Why see a ‘splodey movie on a small big screen? And I’m not just saying that because IMAX kindly gave me free tix.
Pacific Rim is the annual mindlessly violent, epically ‘splodey movie for the USA summer of 2013, which is Australia’s winter. Apparently it’s just outstripped Despicable Me 2, a family favourite. In my opinion the absolute best scene in the whole movie was during the credits so don’t leave early. See Pacific Rim if ‘splodey movies are your thing and if you’re a Sons of Anarchy or del Toro fan.