The story is straight forward and covered fairly well in the trailers. Giant monsters known as Kaiju (Japanese for "strange beast") have been attacking humankind from the depths of the Pacific Ocean where they've opened a portal from another dimension. Humankind's response is to build giant robot warriors called Jaegers (German for "hunters") to battle the Kaiju. Each Jaegar must be piloted by two people who enter something called "the drift", which allows them to share memories and operate the giant robot in a left brain/right brain type fashion. When the Kaiju start to evolve and the Jaegers start falling one by one, the governments of the world turn to a new plan to stop the Kaiju and cancel the Jaeger program. The few remaining Jaegers hole up in Hong Kong and start a last ditch effort to stop the Kaiju invasions once and for all.
Every now and then a movie will come along that will redefine a genre, changing everyone's perceptions about what it is to make a great movie.
Unfortunately, this ain't it.
I was actually worried going in to this film that maybe I wasn't being as objective as I needed to be when it came to writing movie reviews. Was I putting so much hope into films that looked really cool going in that I'd turned a blind eye to anything that might make said movie look bad once I'd viewed it?
First off, not everything about this movie is bad. If you're looking for mind-blowing, jaw-dropping effects, this is your popcorn summer blockbuster. The fights between the Kaiju and the Jaegers are not flashbang affairs. These fights last and last and there's more than one epic battle on display. The action sequences truly are breaking new ground and really showcase what a movie like Transformers (2007) could have been. No up close, shaky camera bullshit where you can't tell who's doing what. Each of the battle sequences is shot near perfectly and the choreography (if you can call it that when it's all done on computers) is spot on. During those battle scenes you can suspend your disbelief for a bit and enjoy some truly awesome carnage.
The story itself isn't terrible either. The concept, while borrowing heavily from other sci-fi sources, is still a neat one to explore. Giant monsters hitting us on a global scale? The world finally putting aside it's own petty differences and banding together to fight these things in the coolest manner possible? How can you go wrong with that?
By hiring terrible actors and throwing in every damned clichè you can possibly come up with, that's how.
Not all of the actors are terrible. Charlie Day (It's Always Sunny in Philadephia, Horrible Bosses (2011)) has a great turn as quirky scientist and Kaiju fanatic Dr. Geiszler. He's exactly as goofy as you expect him to be. Ron Perlman (Hellboy (2004), Sons of Anarchy) has a wonderful cameo as Hannibal Chow, a black market dealer in Kaiju organs. Burn Gorman's (The Dark Knight Rises (2012)) Dr. Gottleib makes a perfect, fastidious foil for Day's goofiness.
Unfortunately, none of the above mentioned actors are the stars of this film. What we end up with is Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy), Idris Elba (Luthor) and Rinko Kikuchi (The Brothers Bloom (2008)) in a competition to see who can be the most bland piece of driftwood on screen.
Hunnam plays Raleigh Beckett. His particular clichèd role is the reluctant hero with the tortured past convinced to climb back into the saddle one more time to save the freakin day. I don't want to spoil anything for you, but save it he does, my friends. Save it he does. Mind you, he does so with a deplorable lack of personality. I didn't find myself rooting for Raleigh at any point in this movie and he's supposed to be the main protagonist.
Idris Elba plays President Whitmore, who, after a moving speech to rally the troops, comes out of retirement to lead the final battle against the alien invaders intent on our natural resources and...and...ah crap. Wait a second. That's the wrong movie. That was Bill Pullman in Independence Day (1996). Let me try that again.
Idris Elba plays Marshall Stacker Pentecost who, after a moving speech to rally the troops, comes out of retirement to lead the final battle against the Kaiju. Elba is pretty bad in this. His English accent seems to come and go throughout the film which is really weird since he's actually English in real life. His scenes carry little weight and he brings absolutely nothing new to the table.
If Elba and Hunnam and bad in this, Rinko Kikuchi is absolutely dreadful. She plays Mako Mori, assistant to Elba's Marshall character and someone desperate to get into a Jaegar and fight some Kaiju. She's bent on revenge against the Kaiju for an attack on her home city when she was a child. She makes moony eyes at Hunnam throughout that are so overdone as to be downright comical. In fact, the only thing I found sadly funnier than that was her looks of determination, pleading and dejectedness whenever the subject of her piloting a Jaeger came up. I'm not sure who all tested for this role, but I'm willing to bet almost anyone would've done a better job.
Having brought up the Kaiju attack when Mako was a child, I have to talk about the child actor that ends up playing Young Mako in a flashback sequence. The young girl's name is Mana Ashida and she's easily the best actor in this movie. I'm not kidding, I only wish I were. The scene in question is the only 10 minutes of the movie that has a truly human, emotional element to it and it's largely due to this little girl's performance. The scene and the girl will move you. I guarantee it.
Then there are the clichè's. I've already mentioned Hunnam's and Elba's characters. There's also the cocky Australian pilot who doesn't like Hunnam for absolutely no apparent reason other than to give Hunnam's character someone to spar with. Oh, and he has daddy issues. There are the Russian pilots who are stoic throughout and get almost no dialogue. The Chinese pilots get even less dialogue than that.
More to the point, though, is how American-centric this movie ends up being. There are only four Jaegers that survive the initial purge: The Russians, the Chinese, the Australians and the Americans. Keep in mind, every major world government built one and the rest have all been trashed by the Kaiju. Only these four were badass enough to survive. And in the very first fight involving these four, the Chinese and the Russian Jaegers get destroyed and their pilots get killed and they accomplish absolutely nothing before they die. Even the Australian Jaeger gets disabled. Who comes in to pull everyone's fat out of the fire? The Americans, that's who! Just like doubleya doublya two!
Even the climax of the film finds the American Jaegar, the American scientist and the American pilot the only ones to ultimately figure out what to do and save the day.
This movie had the potential to step out of the mold and really showcase the global aspect of the film and story. Alas, it gets caught up in it's own clichès and takes the path of least resistance.
I wanted to like this film. I really did. I was hoping it would be the start of something really cool. What I got was a movie that had mind-blowing special effects but lacked brains and heart.
2.5 out of 5 stars
Pacific Rim (2013)
Reviewed by The Bitter Criticon Jul 20 2013
Reviewed by The Bitter Criticon Jul 20 2013