As someone that grew up loving Godzilla movies and Shogun Warriors toys, Pacific Rim was an immensely satisfying summer blockbuster. It’s full of giant, glorious robots and giant, glorious monsters engaging in giant, glorious battles. It’s the summer movie that eight-year old me dreamed about. While it’s not the best movie I’ve seen this year (Star Trek still holds the top spot), I really enjoyed it. My friend Paul, who is also a Godzilla mark, had issues with it. Here are some random thoughts on the movie, along with a secondhand counter-perspective of Paul’s thoughts. Unlike most of my not-a-reviews, this one is spoiler-free.
Character Design: The robots in the movie were sci-fi cool, while the monsters were sci-fi scary. They were exactly how eight-year old me imagined they would be on the big screen. The monster designs were like updated versions of the kaiju used in Godzilla movies. They had some realistic features, but were exaggerated enough that you couldn’t imagine them being real. I greatly preferred this style over what the American version of Godzilla did — make things so realistic to the point they were boring and so unfamiliar to kaiju fans that they weren’t fun.
The different robots in the film were fantastic. Eight-year old me would have done all kinds of chores for toys of these robots. Hell, 2013 me would do your chores for toys of these robots. The robots featured designs that reflected the countries their pilots and (presumably) makers were from. For example, American mech Gipsy Danger was inspired by the Chrysler Building, while Russian Cherno Alpha looked like a Soviet tank. My favorite was China’s Crimson Typhoon, which looked like a red (duh) version of the Iron Giant, but with awesome buzz saws.
Special Effects and 3D: Just in case you didn’t know, similar to how WWE Undertaker isn’t actually dead, the giant robots and giant monsters in Pacific Rim aren’t real. The effects used to make them come alive on the big screen were tremendous — easily some of the best I’ve seen. Obviously the visuals are the movie’s main attraction. (If you’re seeing this movie for something other than the visuals then you’re doing it wrong.) Between the top-notch effects and Red Epic camerawork, this is a visually impressive movie.
The 3D really surprised me. As many of you know, I’m not a huge fan of 3D. Originally, director Guillermo Del Toro was against a 3D conversion, but changed his mind. I’m glad he did. Even though Pacific Rim’s 3D conversion allegedly took 40 weeks longer than most, I believe that the end result was worth the wait. While my friend Paul wasn’t impressed, I felt that the 3D added to the sense of scale. The robots and monsters felt bigger. They really popped off of the screen (especially in the first 20 minutes). Even a seen featuring the human lead made effective use of 3D during a scene on a scaffold. That bit actually had me a little bit queasy from the height. Cool.
So the robots are cool, the monsters are sweet, and the special effects are tremendous. That’s all you really need for this kind of movie, right? Well, that was the case for me. For Paul, not so much.
Weird Science: A lot of the science and logic in Pacific Rim bugged Paul. He didn’t like how the robots required multiple pilots sharing brain waves. He didn’t like that monster attacks seemed to follow a set schedule and that one of the scientists had a theory on the schedule. Me? I didn’t give a rat’s ass. It’s a movie about giant frickin’ monsters emerging from the Earth’s tectonic plates through an arcane portal. The questionable science behind Godzilla movies didn’t bother back in the day and the questionable science in Pacific Rim doesn’t bother me now.
Humans: Paul and I agree that some of the humans weren’t very good in the movie. I think it bothered him more than it bothered me. Again, I never cared about the humans in Godzilla, but unlike those cats, I didn’t mind watching the humans in Pacific Rim. Idris Elba is cool (though it was funny how his voice could go from a tender whisper to a stentorian roar in less than a second — dude must have a reverb switch on his neck), I always find Charlie Day entertaining, Rinko Kikuchi is super cute (especially with blue highlights), and Ron Perlman is always good for some scene-stealers.
The other guys I wasn’t so hot on. Leading man Charlie Hunnam was kind of boring, his antagonistic Australian teammate (that might as well have been named Iceman) played by Robert Kazinsky was annoyingly angry, and aside from being super cute (and having blue highlights), Kikuchi was mostly dull. The bit characters were a bit stereotypical. The male from the Russian team was pretty much the lovechild of Zangief and Ivan Drago, while his female companion was Drago’s wife. While the Chinese guys had the coolest robot, they didn’t do anything aside from bad Yao Ming impersonations when they were outside of the mech.
So yeah, some of the acting was okay and some of it was bad. Again, if you’re seeing Pacific Rim for the acting then you’re doing it wrong.
Striker, I Hardly Know Her: The Australian robot’s name is Striker Eureka. Whenever its name was mentioned, I had flashbacks to Airplane! “Striker. Striker. Striker…Ted Striker?!?”
The Tone: While this is clearly one those big-dumb-fun summer movies, it wasn’t that dumb. Certainly it’s not as vapid as something like Transformers or Battleship. Between its (relative) smartness and feel-good vibe, Pacific Rim left me with a feeling similar to the one I had after I saw Independence Day in theaters. While that movie is obviously more meaningful to Americans, there are a lot of similarities — great special effects, sweet tech, creepy monsters, and humans that didn’t bother the hell out of me (and also Jeff Goldblum).
Bottom Line: Pacific Rim absolutely worked for me and delivered exactly what I wanted out of it. I was surprised that Paul had so many science-related and logic-related issues with it. None of that stuff mattered to me. Interspersed between mostly harmless acting are visually striking scenes featuring giant frickin’ robots fighting giant frickin’ monsters. Those fights made me want to start one of those WWE, “This is awesome!” *clap* *clap* *clapclapclap* chants. As I played with my Godzilla and Shogun Warriors toys as a kid, the most glorious version of the movie in my mind would have been exactly like Pacific Rim.