By Boyd Reynolds | Staff Writer Published: 07/15/2013 12:54 pm EST
Release date: July 12, 2013 Director: Guillermo del Toro
I am surprised.
My expectations going into Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim were low. I had seen the trailers months previous. It looked like Transformers meets Godzilla on steroids. I couldn’t imagine myself going to see it, let alone enjoying it. But something happened. I remembered who was making it. I haven’t seen a del Toro film that I didn’t enjoy, whether it be Hellboy or Pan’s Labyrinth. I decided to take the plunge. And surprisingly, I wasn’t disappointed.
Pacific Rim begins with a short history of what happened between our present time and 2020. A number of giant sea monsters attacked major cities bordering the Pacific Ocean. The Kaiju, as the monsters are called, have come out from a crevasse at the bottom of the ocean floor. The crevasse acts as a portal, as the Kaiju are released on Earth’s inhabitants from an alternate dimension. To counter this monstrous threat, humans have created a giant walking machine known as a Jaeger. A Jaeger is manned by only two pilots, as their minds are connected by a neural link, allowing them to move the machine simultaneously.
As the threat against the Earth heightens and the Kaiju make more and more frequent attacks, the world governments begin to focus their resources on The Wall of Life, a coastal fortified wall attempting to prevent Kaiju attacks and save populations. The Jaeger program is terminated, but before they’re discontinued, the head of the Kaiju program, Stacker Pentecost, played by Idris Elba, devises a plan and the battle to save Earth begins.
Pacific Rim is a well crafted story. Although completely overloaded with CGI, the film has a heartbeat. At its emotional core is its lead character Raleigh Becket, played by Charlie Hunnam. Hunnam is believable both as a stoic hero and a man who can express the subtleties of loss, regret and eventual retribution. The rest of the cast fills out with relative unknowns except for a small role by Ron Perlman, who does an excellent job as a Kaiju body part dealer. The acting is good all around as the dialogue is thankfully well written. It’s not caked on with regretful one-liners or cheesy sappy moments. It’s all believable, and for a story so far fetched, this is crucial to the films success. Del Toro is careful to keep the human element alive in a movie that is fraught with special effects.
Speaking of which, how were those effects?
They are great, offering seamless and enormous battle scenes between Kaiju and Jaeger alike – the true stars of the film. It’s as if the gods of Olympus came down to Earth for a few tussles in the ocean. But a movie with this much CGI has a downside for this viewer. The fight scenes are so intense, such a visual feast, that my brain shorted out. At times, I found myself pulling away from the screen, taking my 3D glasses off and closing my eyes. It was just too much. There is a major battle about two-thirds of the way through Pacific Rim. I was overloaded to such a degree; the scene pulled me out of the movie. My connection severed, I couldn’t get back in to the emotional level I once was. Now, I’m not as young as I used to be and definitely not used to that degree of special effects, but at what point is it enough? Maybe that is the point, there is no line anymore; storytellers in this medium will continue pushing the ever expanding envelope.
One interesting idea explored in Pacific Rim has to do with operating the Jaegers themselves. As mentioned before, two pilots are connected by a neural link, one entering into the other’s brain, experiencing his or her memories. When this happens, the pilots are to go beyond the memories and find the drift – an area where the mind can unite with the other. At one point, Becket tells his new partner Mako Mori, played by Rinko Kikuchi, “Don’t get stuck in a memory. Stay in the now.” A Yoda-like moment for sure, but surprisingly, it works. This new-age theory could come across disingenuous. But the scene has merit largely due to the writing and the actors themselves. To a significant degree, the message resonates with power. How living in a past memory is not really living and you don’t have to be in a giant mechanized monster to experience that. As humans, we do it all the time. How many of us truly live in the now? Very few I would think. We fluctuate between getting stuck in memories of the past and travelling into the future, where life will either be a grand dream or a horrific nightmare. Why is it so difficult to live in the here and now? Why can’t today be good enough? Timeless questions. And if I had the answer, I’d likely have my own talk show.