The Warner Bros. film, which stars Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi, hits theaters July 12. Advance tracking has been less than stellar. Will this be another big-budget event movie that fails? Our TOH! interview with Del Toro is here.
Monsters mash, titans clash and humans are behind the eight-ball in Pacific Rim, a staggeringly loud, action-packed FXtravaganza that's both a numbing and pretty entertaining example of its movie species. It's Godzilla X 10, as thunderously clangy as any Transformers movie, and it may or may not have been inspired by the 1990s anime Neon Genesis Evangelion. But it also really moves, has an attractive cast to complement the humanity-threatening beasts and, in Guillermo del Toro, a director with a lively appreciation of genre tropes.
Guillermo Del Toro's "Pacific Rim" is a movie that is loaded with images and ideas that are fantastic, in every sense of the word, and yet I worry that we've reached a point where audiences shrug at the promise of the new. What Del Toro brings to the table, and not just with this film, is an endless love of the incredible. He has dedicated his career to learning how to sculpt the impossible, using whatever tools he has at his disposal…
There's nothing about this film that feels like it is holding back, and I can't help but feel like Del Toro approached this with the attitude that you only ever get a few opportunities like this, and it would be a crime to spend the entire movie setting up sequels that might never happen.
Pacific Rim is an all-out assault on the mainstream: it's essentially a huge-scale effects-picture corralling giant human-controlled robots and mammoth alien lizards in an apocalyptic face-off to save the planet. You can see how the pitch meeting went; subtlety isn't this movie's middle name.
These are all fine, accomplished performers, but not exactly in the movie-star league. Del Toro would appear to be taking a leaf out of Roland Emmerich's book, who took a similar route with his Godzilla remake in the late 90s. The monsters must be the stars.
It does, however, mean that the film is hampered by a fundamental imbalance: Pacific Rim's wafer-thin psychodrama and plot-generator dialogue provides little for the human component to get their teeth into. Actual wit is in very short supply, particularly in regard to the putative light relief, a couple of shockingly unfunny wacky-scientist types played by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman.
Pacific Rim begins by defining two new words. The first is "Kaiju", which means giant beast in Japanese, and the second is "Jaeger", which is German for hunter. Over the next two hours and 11 minutes, the film goes on to offer a bold, exhaustive and utterly convincing definition of a third word: fun… The giant robot/monster genre has become so weightless, abstracted into digital vapour by the Transformers films and a thousand wannabes, that a master craftsman like del Toro was needed to bring back its thump and clunk.
Well, he has done – and how.
Of all the doom-laden fantasies the studios have rolled out this summer, “Pacific Rim” is the one pushing itself most aggressively as guilt-free entertainment, offering up an apocalyptic spectacle in a spirit of unpretentious, unapologetic fun. Which it will be, at least for those who measure fun primarily in terms of noise, chaos and bombast, or who can find continual novelty in the sight of giant monsters and robots doing battle for the better part of two hours. Viewers with less of an appetite for nonstop destruction should brace themselves for the squarest, clunkiest and certainly loudest movie of director Guillermo del Toro’s career, a crushed-metal orgy that plays like an extended 3D episode of “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” on very expensive acid.
Too in love with itself to ever totally go off the rails, "Pacific Rim" doesn't qualify as the first full-on dud of del Toro's career, but it's hard not to get the sense that something's missing. By comparison, Gareth Edwards' 2010 DIY feature "Monsters" featured a similar invasion of colossal aliens, but deepened the premise by using it to explore post-catastrophe trauma and complicated the very idea of the invaders as legitimate bad guys. "Pacific Rim" never bothers to pull apart its juvenile conceits, nor does it take any clever stabs at the allegories embedded in its militant proceedings, a la Paul Verhoeven's ultra-subversive "Starship Troopers."
PACIFIC RIM can be your kids favorite film ever – and it’s filled with sights like you’ve never seen like this before. I can absolutely guarantee that. This is just mind blowing stuff. The monsters have personalities, just like the Jaegers. They’re beautiful creatures.
However – for those wondering if this film has more than the best visual effects that you’ve ever seen before… the answer is a resounding YES!