Film review: Pacific Rim (2013), directed by Guillermo del Toro
This review is going to contain SPOILERS after I give the general low-down on what the film is about. If you arched an eyebrow when you saw the trailer and thought “well, that’s probably going to suck balls”, stick around. If you thought “that looks AWESOME!!” … not even Mr T (who, in all fairness, fits the demographic a whole lot better than I do) liked it.
Some time in 2013 giant sea monsters, or Kaiju, break through a rift in time and space located at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. In response to this new threat mankind comes together and builds big-ass fighting machines (mech warriors, or “robots” for short) called “Jaegers”. The Jaegers are piloted by a couple of people, because its manoeuvring is controlled by the brain, and you need to mind-meld two of them to avoid getting brain-fried.
Two such Jaeger pilots are Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and his plot device. Sorry, I mean brother. Redshirt dies, Raleigh stops being a pilot because grief, and goes on to work with building a huge wall that the Kaiju will obviously be completely incapable of destroying in about ten seconds.
Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), some sort of leader of the Jaeger command, comes a-knockin’ saying he has one of the third generation Jaegers lying around and he could do with the only third generation Jaeger pilot still alive. Raleigh goes with him to Hong Kong, where the final four Jaegers are stored. Because, you see, the Powers That Be decided that humanity’s best chance of survival, i.e. the Jaegers, was a stupid idea and decided it’s time to decommission them.
But not for long!
In Hong Kong, Raleigh meets token female/love interest/damsel in distress Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) who wants to be a pilot but Stacker won’t let her because paternal feelings. There is the Aussie father and son team, Herc (Max Martini) and Chuck (Robert Kazinsky) Hansen, where son Chuck takes an instant dislike to Raleigh, whom he sees as a loose cannon. His bulldog is less stuck-up – and more drooly.
Raleigh is reunited with smartypants Tendo Choi (Clifton Collins Jr), with whom he used to work when he piloted the fateful mech warrior Gipsy Danger five years ago.
Also starring Charlie Day as Kaiju specialist Newton, Burn Gorman as mathematician Gottlieb, and Ron Perlman as black market dealer Hannibal Chau.
If you watch this film because you want to watch a film about giant robots smashing up both Hong Kong and ginormous sea monsters from a different dimension, that’s what you get. Don’t expect it to be good at the same time, which is unfortunately the mistake Mr T made. I was under no illusion, so I could only be pleasantly surprised , except I wasn’t. Pacific Rim is even directed by Guillermo del Toro, the genius behind the two Hellboy films, so it’s not as if a certain expectation for it to be good was there.
The two scientists were annoying (and badly acted), and after they both have plugged into the hive mind of the aliens, you get the cringeworthy scene where they look at each other and have a really badly scripted piece of exposition dialogue along the lines of:
“OMG, the thing!!”
“Yes, the thing!!”
“And the other thing!!”
“And the third thing!!
“It’s not going to work!!”
“We have to warn them!!”
Why couldn’t they just have looked at each other and said “WE HAVE TO WARN THEM NOW”? And besides, if you’re in that much of a hurry, why don’t you pick up a PHONE and CALL them, instead of having to travel all through Hong Kong to get back to command? It makes very little sense. For that matter, it’s stated that plugging into the hive mind is a bloody stupid thing to do because it’s a two-way street. The scientists get to know the aliens’ plan for mass invasion. The only thing that happens in reverse is that one of the Kaiju finds the scientist who isn’t played by Burn Gorman, sniffs him, and moves on. Surely both the scientists, working in Jaeger HQ as they are, will have brains full of insider knowledge of the Jaegers and what the humans are plotting? But apparently, no, the aliens don’t get any of that.
The building of a huge metal wall around THE ENTIRE COASTLINE OF THE PACIFIC OCEAN, aside from being laughable because of its scale, isn’t exactly like building a huge wall of ice to keep out humans and Icewalkers. It’s a question of scale. Here, they build a wall that seems to come up to, what, the knees of the Kaiju, and they fully expect this to keep all the Kaiju out. When this fails, as ANY IDIOT COULD TELL IT WOULD, they’re acting all surprised. What, you didn’t see that coming? Really?
The Kaiju are able to emit an EMF bomb which turns off all the power everywhere. Except in Gipsy Danger, of course, because it’s “analogue”. All those computer screens and mind-control systems in there are analogue, are they?
At one point in the film, I was on the verge of crying out “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!” in the cinema because, get this: the Kaiju have completely destroyed two Jaegers. A third is damaged and because of the EMF wave, can’t move a gear. Gipsy Danger is taking a beating and having weapons trouble, when a button is pressed to DEPLOY A SWORD, with the crew going “oh yeah, we also have a sword, I forgot about that”, which then promptly WINS THEM THE BATTLE. Because a sword makes swift work with cutting aliens into easily managable chunks. And they didn’t use the sword FROM THE GET-GO becaaaause …?
They also focus a lot on hitting the Kaiju in the head. The head, which has the heaviest amount of bone armour – so much so that body part scavengers can’t even cut into it in time before the brain rots. The Kaiju look like they have much squishier parts (proven by the use of that sword). I can only guess the writers – or even characters – of this film learned their battle tactics from watching, what, Teletubbies? They clearly have never played a computer game, seen a decent film, or even been equipped with common sense. You find the weakest spot of an enemy’s defence, and you strike them there. Hell, even I know that. These guys are supposed to be the best defence the Earth has got, and they don’t even know the basics of self-defence, i.e. “hit them in the balls”!
The token woman (c’mon, the Russian doesn’t count, she hardly speaks), while being perfectly capable of defending herself, is reduced to Damsel in Distress the first time she sets her foot in a real Jaeger. She’s also the one that gets the honour of showing Raleigh to his room when he first arrives, because the men had some important men stuff to do or something. This despite the fact that she’s introduced as one of the smartest people there. (“Here I am, brain the size of a planet and they ask me to take you down to the bridge.”) That doesn’t stop her from needing Raleigh to protect her, stick up for her, and so on. It’s ridiculous, and I’m sorry they didn’t give Rinko Kikuchi more to play with. Oh sure, she gets to join Raleigh in being a Big Damn Hero … at least until he gives her his oxygen and sends her rescue pod to the surface so that he can do the big Heroic Sacrifice all by himself.
Except it isn’t a sacrifice.
Yes, two Jaegers and their marginalised crews of apparently insignificant foreigners died, and the Aussie Daddy damaged his arm and Aussie Son damaged his ego. Okay, so Aussie Son and Stacker did the Heroic Sacrifice thing so Raleigh could live on in case of a sequel. Funny how his pod surfaces mere seconds after Mako’s, isn’t it? What with him sending her up minutes before, and realistically, his pod would have got stuck in the collapsing dimensional portal, which seemed to collapse a heck of a lot quicker than the pod could rise.
Was there really no better design for a giant killing machine than a mind-controlled robot? They hardly seemed efficient on the battlefield. But if they didn’t look like giant robots, the film wouldn’t be half as cool, right?
Oh, and there’s the point where Team Aussie climb out of their robot and proceed to shoot the Kaiju in the eyes with flare guns. Remember the thing I said about squishy parts? Eyes are squishy. Why didn’t you aim your bloody weapons at their eyes while the Jaeger still worked? Or the mouth? Or is it that Hollywood thing of “NOT THE FACE!”, which in no way should apply to giant alien monsters?
Every single thing about Pacific Rim is ridiculous that one of the less ridiculous things about it is that the dinosaurs were a Kaiju experiment – but the atmosphere wasn’t right at the time so they died out, and they’ve only come back now because we’ve basically terraformed the atmosphere for them with our polluting ways. (Yes, they really do say that.)
If you’re keeping score, yes, the plot holes are so many you could drive a Kaiju through them.
The only redeeming feature in this mess is Ron Perlman, and he’s not even in it much. His character is outlandish and really funny, which is just as well because the rest of the film isn’t. The bit with the Archimedes Cradle is an example of something that’s meant to cause a giggle, but falls short.
Oh yeah, but the CGI is well done, and the little girl who plays young Mako is amazing. (Yes, for reals! Best piece of acting in the entire film!)
The TV adverts use quoted words like “BREATHTAKING” and “EPIC”, which I guess were taken entirely out of context, sort of like you could take “pleasantly surprised” or “really funny” from what I’ve written above.
Pacific Rim is not good. I can’t say I’m disappointed, because I expected it to be Transformers vs Godzilla and therefore fully expected it to be a film I wouldn’t particularly enjoy. However, I admit that I don’t much enjoy Transformers, so this isn’t my kind of film anyway, but even a man who grew up with the Transformers franchise and likes these kind of films concluded that the film was not just a disappointment but also complete rubbish. Well, something’s not right here – despite Guillermo del Toro’s excellent filmography.
I’d give it a 1.5, Mr T gave it 2.5, so let’s call it a 2 out of 5 bulldogs and hope it’s a box office flop so they won’t bother doing a sequel.
(Update 2021: There was a sequel. I haven’t seen it, and Mr T waited until it was available on streaming services instead of going to the cinema.)