Film Reviews

PACIFIC RIM

By • Jul 10th, 2013 •

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Alien creatures called Kaiju, larger than the Burj Khalilfa, rise from the oceans and destroy cities all over the world. America’s answer is to build 25-story-high robots, called Jaegers, to fight the menacing creatures – but with a twist. A Jaeger is controlled by two pilots who have to get in mind sync with each other.

When Jaeger brothers Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam) and his older brother Yancy (Diego Klattenhoff) fight a Kaiju and Yancy dies, Raleigh goes off the rails; lives rough and works on dangerous construction sites. The Jaeger program is shelved.

We decide to build a very tall wall to keep the creatures off land. (China’s massive movie audience will love the irony: their Great Wall kept everyone out.)

Raleigh is doing just fine – thank you very much – when Jaeger force commander Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) comes a-calling to bring Raleigh out of retirement to pilot one of the four Jaegers left. Seems the wall building program ran into costly overruns, voodoo bookkeeping, and non-Union workers.

Like every emotionally wounded hero who is nursing a broken heart, Raleigh at first declines. When Pentecost starts quoting Leviticus, Raleigh agrees to return after seven long years away.

The program has gone private run by Pentecost. Every Jaeger pilot looks like thematic variations of Hunnam. The pilot’s size up Raleigh: He ran from the program, got his co-pilot killed and the program shut down, and is 10 years older than they are. Except for Pentecost’s tiny assistant Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), he is an outsider and an interloper. Mako wants to be a pilot, not someone following Pentecost around carrying a clipboard.

When there is a competition to see which pilot will be matched with Raleigh, Mako’s skills at combat trump all the other men. Raleigh is smitten with the Geisha Warrior and he picks her as his co-pilot. They mind-mend and he goes inside her head to find a secret.

Pentecost’s team now includes gay couple Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Gottlieb (Burn Gorman). They scream and fight over the décor of their lab…and the agenda of the alien creatures.

Geiszler thinks he can get inside the head of one of the monsters.

Day is playing an exaggerated take on his HORRIBLE BOSSES role. Gorman’s severe hairdo keeps telegraphing something just is not right. Anyhow, why are they in this movie? Why are they yelling? It’s not their first time at the rodeo or dealing with sea creatures.

Where is the creature from the Black Lagoon when you really do need him?

Then, since this is a monster movie for teenage boys, Raleigh goes to see Dr. Mabuse (Ron Perlman). Dr. Mabuse is the PACIFIC RIM 2 tease. He should be the mastermind controlling the creatures; instead he’s the stunt casting wearing a garish suit and a grille on his teeth.

The screenwriters are Travis Beacham and Guillermo del Toro, with an additional credit going to Travis Beacham for the story. Stands to reason Beacham got the extra credit. He wrote CLASH OF THE TITANS.

PACIFIC RIM is a 1950s re-do of Hollywood’s pilot-as-hero. Guillermo del Toro, who wrote and directed the magical PAN’S LABYRINTH (and HELLBOY and HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY) has been executive producing and producing tons of stuff. Here he’s the director! But where is the magical, ethereal quality of PAN or THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE?

Where is the mysticism?

Returning to the “story”, where is the villain? The pilots kill one creature and another takes its place. How many are there? Where is their underwater base of operations? What do they eat?

Hunnam has real movie star presence and he shows a lot of charisma. He acts as if he is really interested in Kikuchi who is here either because (a) she will be marketed to the huge Asian market or (b) Asian money bankrolled this massive production. Considering her lack of acting talent, frail appearance and scared as a mouse demeanor, perhaps she is (c) a producer’s girlfriend.

Third lead Elba – the U.K. press and Elba’s PR firm keep pushing him to be the first black James Bond – is making his cross-over appearance here in the role that always goes to a big black guy. PACIFIC RIM will give Elba blockbuster credentials but he’s overweight and shows no discernible acting ability. His BBC LUTHER series showed he can even play loves scenes angry.

del Toro must have been directing the massive production side of the movie.

All the CGI stuff is fantastic and big, loud and rowdy. There is no Darth Vardar or villain…yet. But with all the CGI already done, PACIFIC RIM 2 is a certainty. They already have the pilot suits and, as is standard practice now, the leads are under contract until 2030 for sequels or video games.

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