It’s been a long road for Guillermo Del Toro‘s Kaiju epic “Pacific Rim“, but it’s here and I got a chance to see it yesterday in a sparsely occupied AMC theater at 4pm. I had expected there to be more people in attendance on a summer Friday afternoon, but my wife and I were grateful for the space.
Right away Guillermo Del Toro, waste no time getting the viewer caught up on all the Kaiju goings on in the last decade, that ends in 2020 where we pick up. The attention to detail, is amazing! The world he’s created or should I say his VFX dept created, looks so believable and lived in, that he almost fools you into believing that something like this could happen. One point I’d also like to make is unlike most 3D films, Guillermo throws subtle visual tricks your way all throughout the film to let you know you are still watching a 3D film, which I appreciated very much. Nothing pisses me off more than directors who forget that fact and just rush the rest of the film.
What was deeply important about introducing this highly imaginative concept to the world was it’s level of tangibility. Guillermo knew this was a science fiction picture and not a fantasy film, so it had to be approached from a science-fiction standpoint. These weren’t martian robots or something that was taking place on a game grid, this was our world. So he needed to come up with a viable reason for these Kaiju’s ( a Japanese word for Monster) to attack and two, for us to combat them by unconventional means and this is when the film leans heavily on it’s Japanese predecessors like the hugely popular animes Evangelion, Gundam or Robotech, all of which have been talked about, but never fully realized on film. Sad to, for all intents and purposes they should’ve come out a long time ago. Maybe Guillermo petitioned for the rights to those films and was denied or he just wanted to create an homage…I don’t know, perhaps I never will, but believe me when I say “no ones ever gonna be able to make another film like this one without it being compared to Pacific Rim”. The effect was indelible.
The story follows Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunan) whom you see loose his brother and trusted Jaeger (A German word for Hunter) co-pilot, early on in the film to a brutal Kaiju. Devastated, Raleigh retires from piloting to become a steel worker on one of the biggest walls in the world, designed to protect the citizens from Kaiju attacks. Because of Raleigh’s last battle, that cost his brothers life and was considered a total failure globally, the Jaeger program get’s it’s funding pulled. That’s when the head of the Jeager program Stacker Pentacost (Idris Elba) gathers what’s left of the program from the four corners of the world and houses them in a new facility/rebel hideout.
A host of new characters emerge as a result of this reconstruction, among these Stacker’s adopted daughter Mako Mori played by Rinko Kikuchi, Dr. Newton Geiszler played by Charlie Day and his partner Gottlieb played by Burn Gorman whom by the way were amazing as committed scientist and comic relief. Course the world gets even bigger when Kaiju black market organ dealer Hannibal Chau (Ron Pearlman) comes in as a well financed provocateur of Kaiju remains and no good summer film is complete without it’s ICEMAN and that’s the son and father Australian Jaeger team Herc and Chuck Hansen played by Max Martini and Robert Kazinsky.
Were there others? Of course they were…like the Chinese Jaeger team Crimson Typhoon, who hands down, had one of the baddest looking Jaegers, but like Darth Maul, got wiped out pretty quick. Also there was the “stereotypically” silent, but stoic Russian team, whom again were only there to move the plot along, but guess what? I didn’t mind. I’m all about focusing on the hero. Let’s like this guy first. Too many films want to inundate you with character’s they think can sell toys, but then don’t and they later wonder why. Well because no one knew who the fuck they were. So instead of insulting our intelligence Guillermo said there must be a focus and that was on Raleigh and those he came in contact with and how he’s going to come to grips with the lost of his brother.
I’m not going to ruin it for you, but Guillermo “in his genius” uses a clever technique to give us Mako’s back story, an idea I seriously said wow to, as I watched it unfold in front of me.
The film ends with a pretty amazing battle/race to the finish line, that delivered on desperation like no other. I was invested and as limbs are being torn apart left and right you realize that these Jaeger’s aren’t like your typical super robots, these guys technically aren’t any match for the Kaiju, but it’s when cooler heads prevail, the pilots are able to survive by outwitting these beast instead of brute force…most of the time.
Now…as if this review isn’t already long enough, let’s talk about effects.
I was blown away by all the practical effects (non CGI) in this film. It looked like, as a rule of thumb, if Guillermo could build a realistic version of what he envisioned, he would build it. From the Jaeger cockpit, to the set’s or lack there off in some of the destroyed areas, to the science props and machines, to the Kaiju remains. He made this world more real by again, not undermining the intelligence of the viewers. As he stated before in one of the Pacific Rim featurette’s, it would’ve been real easy to slide the actors into mo-cap suits (Motion Capture suits) and placed them in a green room, but he said he needed to see the work these pilots were putting in to make this robots work and for that he needed to see resistance. So he built a torture chamber. It worked. These pilots are being put through the paces. When the monster strikes, they feel it and so will you.
The Kaiju themselves are highly imaginative critters. Most based in some way shape or form on animals we know like the shark or gorilla. This is Guillermo’s nod to Japan’s Godzilla films. They are over the top, but deadly and despite how badass these Jaeger’s are, they are without a doubt, formidable. The battles are like watching Greco-Roman wrestling minus the occasional cannon blast not to mention the scope and grandeur leaves no doubt about the size of these creatures. It was like watching huge buildings going at it in the water, the film is meant to make you feel small and it does.
And now the Soundtrack…
Composer Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones) and guitarist Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) do an outstanding job of nurturing that “Led Zepplin Cashmire” vibe to the Biblical proportions of Pacific Rim. The guitars are crunchy and the strings are…stringy. It never got themey either, meaning, I never expected to hear certain things at certain times. The soundtrack was tasteful and did what any good soundtrack should do…lend itself to the visuals.
Man…I really want to see this film again.
This is why I say Pacific Rim goes big by keeping it simple. Things like story, practical effects,character development, patience, casting,art direction and above all…love, are simple concepts when you really think about them. It’s the root of all the great films of our time and it’s something we see too little of. It’s like the money makes people mad. This is why I commend Guillermo, with a budget like this film had, Pacific Rim could’ve fallen out of his hands and gone the way of Man of Steel. But it never does, his hand could be felt in every frame. Like he had been waiting all his life to make this film. The care is there to immerse you in something you’ve never seen before or at least you thought you had seen, but hadn’t…really.
You see, it’s not hard for directors to get people to believe their world exist, it’s getting people to come back, that’s the hard part.
When legions of monstrous creatures, known as Kaiju, started rising from the sea, a war began that would take millions of lives and consume humanity’s resources for years on end. To combat the giant Kaiju, a special type of weapon was devised: massive robots, called Jaegers, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge. But even the Jaegers are proving nearly defenseless in the face of the relentless Kaiju. On the verge of defeat, the forces defending mankind have no choice but to turn to two unlikely heroes—a washed up former pilot (Charlie Hunnam) and an untested trainee (Rinko Kikuchi)—who are teamed to drive a legendary but seemingly obsolete Jaeger from the past. Together, they stand as mankind’s last hope against the mounting apocalypse.