When filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro speaks, geeks listen; and with that great power, comes the expectation of a certain high standard. However, instead of the humungous AND brainy blockbuster, PACIFIC RIM is that giant sea creature that got away. When an inter-dimensional giant monster menace known as the KAIJU invade the earth from portal embedded in the Pacific Ocean floor, humanity unites and creates an equally epic solution. The JAEGAR program uses two human pilots (to bear the hefty psychological load) to interface with gargantuan robot warriors and beat back the beasts.
The mythology of PACIFIC RIM is rich and yet with an effectively concise opening montage you're right up to speed with where we find ourselves in the world and dropped head long into the action. A blockbuster should be about spectacle and in that regard PACIFIC RIM is a raging success. Watching the varied, huge robotic-humanoids belt the living blue stuff out of the wonderful array of engorged, mutated, mixtures of sea creatures/reptiles is pure awesome. And unlike a certain red caped Kryptonian flying through cinemas at the moment, the last resort is to let these destructive entities beach themselves upon a city and wreak havoc.
Aside from the action, exploring the 'drift' or the connection that's required between human pilots, leads to some of the best moments of RIM. You're required to surrender to immersing yourself in the memories of your co-pilot and during upload, sharing defining memories. If you 'hold on' to a particularly strong memory you can get lost into reliving it. Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) has such a moment, and Raleigh (Charlie Hunnman) is along for the ride. The only problem is that if this happens whilst you're in control of a JAEGAR, your fears and reactions speak in the potentially devastating manoeuvres of a mech-warrior. As we inch closer to interfacing with technology, projections of how we (humanity) can interconnect consciousness become more tantalising. It's a fleeting tid bit that peeks the imagination in all the right ways.
Nevertheless, when a film has the armour plating of a series of robots vs monster smack downs, it takes a lot to diminish the overall quality. PACIFIC RIM is riddled with narrative diversions; disengaged, unlikeable characters and bad accents that this reviewer, outside of the aforementioned highlights, was left agog by its mediocrity.
The ‘Australian’ characters in the film deliver the most jarring attempts at the Australian accents since Tarantino in Django Unchained. Instead of a forgettable, but forgivable, foray into a poor impression there are two key 'good guys' that fumble over Australian pronunciation for the entire running time. It's unforgivable aural torture.
The economy that PACIFIC RIM can be lauded for in the beginning of the film is completely misused after the opening skirmish. After a particularly significant moment for the Hunman's lead character we're fast-forwarded to a period five years later where no-one looks any older and we're continually told in Del Toro and co-writer Travis Beachem's dialogue what everyone is feeling instead of allowing the performers to convey.
Elba has two settings in PACIFIC RIM; scowling or SCREAMING. While Hunnman is reduced to being shirtless, eye candy and enunciating how he's feeling instead of conveying emotion. Rinko Kikuchi is left to be hypnotised by Hunman's abs (she's only human — he's only Hunnman), be helpless and register no emotional chemistry with either Hunman or Elba.
Charlie Day's 'KAIJU groupie' biologist Dr. Newton Geiszler and his mathematician offsider Gottleib (Burn Gorman) are a pointless distraction to the main narrative. Although they masquerade as the main repository for knowledge regarding the intergalactic antagonists, in practice they play an odd couple in the most hammy fashion to guise the fact that they're a physical manifestation of a plot device to lead to Ron Pearlman. Pearlman's presence, aside from being in red (nice touch) and some pretty ace golden shoes, was completely inconsequential.
Critics excusing poor structure, bad dialogue and narrative predictability can only be from those that believe that blockbuster genre is categorically 'dumb.' However they are blind to the historical fact that the term blockbuster originates from two films: Jaws and Star Wars. This reviewer remembers when a despondent Sheriff searching for solace in a drink, renews his purpose by having his son mimic his gestures. This reviewer remembers when a kid stuck in a dead end desert planet looked toward a blistering dual sunset pleading for an indefinable destiny to snatch him out of mediocrity. That said this reviewer, even as early as last year with The Avengers, was shown that brevity, intelligence and green, rage monster fuelled joy can be achieved with a blockbuster (and the third highest grossing film of all time no less).
PACIFIC RIM speaks the disaster language of the original Godzilla, yearns to be in the same league as Star Wars; but unfortunately its style over substance ethos delivers Transformers results.
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to the audio review on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writers: Travis Beacham (screenplay/story), Guillermo del Toro (screenplay)
Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Ron Pearlman, Burn Gorman.
Blake Howard is a writer, a podcaster, the editor-in-chief & co-founder of Australian film blog Graffiti With Punctuation. Beginning his criticism APPRENTICESHIP as co-host of That Movie Show 2UE, Blake is now a member of the prestigious Online Film Critic Society, sways the Tomato Meter with Rotten Tomatoes approved reviews. See his articulated words and shrieks (mostly) here at Graffitiwithpunctuation.com and with DarkHorizons.com & 2SER Sydney weekly on Gaggle of Geeks.