In Pacific Rim — an ode to Godzilla? — a former Jaeger pilot, Raleigh (played by Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam) teams up with trainee Mako (Rinko Kikuchi), to fight the last human-Kaiju war. Jaegers are ginormous, skyscraper-size Kaiju killing machines operated cerebrally by two pilots who, for all intents and purposes, share the same brain. Kaijus are an alien race that have inhabited earth below the sea, at the planet’s core.
They have cloned themselves and are attacking humans in major cities such as San Francisco, Manila and Hong Kong.
Screenwriters Travis Beacham (who conceptualized the story) and Guillermo del Toro (who also directs) set out to tell a story of dinosaurs who migrated to the center of the earth after the Ice Age and waited for us humans to dump enough radioactive waste in our waters to cause them to become the Godzilla-size beasts they are. Pacific Rim could also be a light commentary on toxic waste dumping, while pointing an environmentally accusatory finger at the oil and other industries.
Story-wise, the entertainment is there.
There’s a beginning, middle, and end. There are half-acted relationships between father and son, father and faux daughter, “friendships” between pilots. The concept of two people first drifting into each other’s heads and then operating a 70-foot machine to save the world is awesome. The delivery, though, leaves a lot to be desired.
ART OF THE STORY
Like many action films, the writers have relied too heavily on the action and special effects and have lost the art of the story, itself. The plot isn’t all the way clear. There aren’t any solid connections to gravitate toward. And, worse yet, just when you think the guy is going to get the girl, he gets a nose rub. What is that about?
In terms of delivery, to say that it was poorly directed is a disservice to the Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy franchise director. But there is such a thing as “over-directing.” In film, the story and the characters need to seem as natural as possible to connect with the audience.
Having your characters perform mostly with their limbs, rather than with their whole being, tends to spoil the story.
Frankly speaking, most of the acting in this film is pretty poor. Kikuchi tries to purr through her lines with broken English and manages to look like a caricature of Asian-inspired female heroes of action films gone by. If that’s not bad enough, she never quite develops chemistry with Hunnam’s Raleigh.
Hunnam isn’t so bad. He just doesn’t know what to do with the mediocre story material; unlike Idris Elba, who we’ll get to in a minute. Hunnam has the brawn and easily could have been Chris Hemsworth’s stunt double/twin in Thor. Alas, Hunnam lacks Hemsworth’s charm, which makes his Raleigh a bit of a snooze.
Charlie Day and Burn Gorman (as Kaiju research duo Dr. Geiszler “Newt” and Gottlieb, respectively) are the odd couple/bumbling nerds who seem to be requisite for all sci-fi films, but other scientists tend to be less annoying. Between Day’s Newt screaming through his lines and Gorman’s Gottlieb being overly “British,” it’s amazing that they even got around to doing any scientific work.
The addition of Hunnam’s Sons of Anarchy dad Ron Perlman as Hannibal Chau (named after his favorite character and favorite Brooklyn restaurant, according to Hannibal) does sort of help the film in the character department. Hannibal, a black market retailer of Kaiju body parts and powders, tells it like it is and has the staying power of a favorite character; which is a mainstay for Perlman.
And, then there’s Elba’s Stacker Pentecost. Stacker is the man in charge and if there’s any doubt of his status, Elba puts on his game face and single-handedly saves this movie.
There’s a reason why Pacific Rim is being marketed with Elba’s presence foremost. He’s the best character and actor in the film.
Despite the great cinematography of jaw-dropping action and special effects, which includes good 3D, Pacific Rim and its radioactive creatures doesn’t deliver on homage to the dinosaur film that came before it, Godzilla.
But, if you are looking for an action film heavy on special effects, ultra thin on human emotion and connection, and are a fan of Idris Elba’s acting ability, then Pacific Rim is your film and worth the extra $5 for those big ole’ 3D glasses. Otherwise, watch it on DVD.