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Pacific Rim (A Movie Review)

Updated on December 9, 2014

About The Film

"Pacific Rim" was presented and produced by Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures. It was directed by Guillermo del Toro and starred Charlie Hunnam, Diego Klattenhoff, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Max Martini, Robert Kazinsky, Clifton Collins Jr., and Ron Perlman.

Earth is invaded by an alien species from another dimension through a portal opened at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Their weapons of choice are colossal monsters that have been called "Kaiju". The Kaiju are systematically sent through the portal as a part of an extinction campaign against the human race. The human population being faced with extinction, the nations of the world pool their respective resources and produce massive manned, neural controlled machines called "Jaegers", to fight the invading monsters in an effort to prevent the extermination of humanity.

The Review

Right off the bat, this movie pretty much "pigeon-holes" itself in terms of its appeal. First of all, it's a monster movie. This fact alone kind of singles it out with respect to who's going to like it. Now, as monster movies go, for the most part, the monster (or monsters if, as in this case, there's more than one) is, for all intents and practical purposes, usually, the star. Everybody else is just support. So, it kind of becomes all about the monster, whatever it does, and whatever (or whoever) ends up fighting it. Everything else is just fodder for building up to those events. (Within the scope of my experience there's only been one exception.)

In the case of "Pacific Rim", as is typical to most if not all monster movies, the continued existence of humanity is at stake. The spotlight is split between the monsters, the Kaiju, and the pilots of the Jaegers, the machines created to combat them. The heroes of the story, the pilots, must contend with the trauma of loss as they fight to defend the existence of humanity. The colossal, heavily armed and armored, manually operated, neural controlled Jaegers require at least two pilots, as the neural load is typically too much for a single pilot to handle. So all of the Jaegers are always piloted in teams of at least two. The trauma of loss is introduced and becomes the back-drop of Jaeger pilot Raleigh Becket's life as he suffers the loss of his brother, Yancy, while in combat with a Kaiju. The nature of the neural control of a Jaeger is such that a mental link, called a "neural handshake", must be established between the two pilots in order for them to operate the Jaeger as one. Raleigh's trauma is particularly pronounced because of the fact that, when his brother was killed, the neural handshake between them was still active. This made him aware of his brother's every thought and feeling as he died. This served to enhance the severity of the trauma and prompt Raleigh to leave the Jaeger program.

After some years being absent, attrition prompts his being recalled into the program. And, as it has not abated, he brings his trauma with him, and it serves to color everything that happens to and around him. Upon returning to the Jaeger program, Raleigh meets another pilot, Mako Mori, and discovers that the two of them are compatible for the neural handshake. She also carries a burden of great loss at the hands of the Kaiju. From this point Raleigh and Mako are made a Jaeger team and take their place as the main heroes of the film.

Now, again, as is consistent with monster movies of this kind, I've seen very little in the direction of depth to the characters, so, there isn't really a lot to talk about. With the exception of the two central characters, there isn't much to get attached to, or even to relate to, for that matter. Nothing of the other characters extends much beyond their presence in the moment. The void is pretty much filled with a kind of courageous bravado.

The film, almost in its entirety, rides heavily on its visual effects. But, then, this is to be expected. It's a monster movie. Now, what reaches for the draw is the realistic appearance (CGI notwithstanding) of the Kaiju, Jaegers, and combat sequences. And the combat is served up with a healthy quantity of wholesale destruction. Now, I don't know about anyone else, but, for myself, all of the Kaiju and Jaeger scenes had "anime" written all over them. The camera angles, the fight sequences, the still shots, even the progress of the story, all of it viewed like a live-action translation of anime.

The Recommendation

Now, as I've already mentioned, this film sits in something of a "pigeon hole" when it comes to the kind of interest it generates. Generally speaking, there wasn't a lot in the direction of depth when it came to the characters. There was no character development or history much beyond the moment, and, whatever was not there was replaced with the kind of courageous bravado typical to the "tough guy" or "tough chick" character type. This is usually a problem for viewers who derive their enjoyment of films from the characters and the interaction between them.

Also, as is typical with this type of film (especially these days), there is significant use of CGI special effects. This fact alone is enough to turn some people off. And, while CGI in and of itself may not be a problem for some, the way it's used may cause a problem for others. Which brings me to the "anime" flavor I mentioned earlier. For people like myself, who enjoy anime, this is not a problem. But, I've met others who have what I shall call a healthy distaste for all things "anime", and for this reason would have serious problems enjoying this film, to say the least.

But, as I've pointed out more than once already, this is a monster movie. This fact alone places it in a category separate from the expectations of the kind of viewers mentioned above. A monster movie is for all intents and practical purposes a fantasy. So, I, for one, am a bit hard pressed see the sense in looking for qualities not typical to a fantasy in a monster movie, especially one where the monsters are the principle weapon used by alien invaders from another dimension.

So, bottom line, this film is for viewers possessed of a certain taste (and perhaps some variations of that taste). If you are not a fan of fantasy or science fiction, if you don't like anime or anything that resembles it, if you want more from the characters than just over-the-top, courageous, bravado, and a level of depth that extends beyond whatever moment they appear in in the film, this movie is not for you.

If, on the other hand, you like anime (like me), if you have no expectations of a fantasy or sci-fi film other than what is typical to such a film, if your expectations of the film are no greater than what the film actually offers (or what is advertised), then I can, quite enthusiastically, recommend this movie. Having interests and preferences that fall within these parameters, I found this movie to be a fun ride, and enjoyable to the very end. I have every intention of watching it as often as I can.


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