This movie was exactly what I wanted it to be.
Was this the best movie I’ve ever seen? No. Is it even the best movie I’ve seen this summer? Well… maybe. Granted, there’s a lot that’s predictable about this movie but there are two main reasons why I love this movie.
1) Guillermo del Toro. His Hellboy movies were beautiful, Pan’s Labryinth was a masterpiece and his horror movies are two of my favorites because they actually have a plot. (Have you seen The Devil’s Backbone yet? WHY NOT?) I’m getting to the point where I will watch anything simply because it has his name attached to it.
2) Mecha Anime. When I was in college, I somehow fell into watching Big O. It was a Japanese anime about a Bruce Wayne type character who used a large robot to fight injustice. I think. It’s been a while since I last saw it and honestly, I’m not really sure I understood it all that well as I was watching it. Regardless, it holds a special place in my heart. (And research gods forgive me but I’m linking to a wikipedia article on mecha if you’re interested in more information.)
I’ve heard a lot of criticism that Pacific Rim is just Transformers redone and therefore just another example of the dearth of creativity in Hollywood. But really, Transformers? Ugh. It’s much better than that.
Here’s the story: monster aliens, called kaiju, have been appearing periodically from an opening at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. These massively destructive creatures have been repelled only by the creation of large robots (Jaegers) manned by two pilots. Our story really starts about 15-20 years after the appearance of the first kaiju. At this point the Jaegers and their pilots have fallen out of favor with governments who have decided that a huge wall would be just as effective. So the machines have been gradually removed from service until only four are left. And unfortunately, the wall fails to keep the kaiju out. So it’s up to the remaining Jaeger pilots and their huge robots to make a last ditch effort to destroy the kaiju and their entryway once and for all.
It’s a fairly predictable story and we know it’s going to end happily. We know who will make the sacrificial hero deaths. We have the cliched characters: the egotistical jerk of a pilot, the rookie, the scrappy hero, the tough as nails military leader, the brilliant and wildly eccentric researchers. But these same characters also veer wildly from what we expect. Our rookie? She’s not some cocky arrogant kid just dying to prove herself. She is incredibly skilled as a pilot and she knows this, but she is also incredibly respectful towards the decisions of her commanding officer. And the egotistical jerk? Well, he kind of has every right to be. He actually is one of the best Jaeger pilots. And while he and our hero should develop some sort of working relationship where they set set aside their differences to overcome the aliens together, well … they don’t. Not really.
And I think the most interesting thing here is that even though Pacific Rim 2 is already official, Pacific Rim is not really a standard origin movie. If it was, this movie would be about the first kaiju/Jaeger battle or at least our hero’s ascent to Jaeger pilot status. But we breeze past all that history in about 10 minutes allowing us to jump right into a fully developed…well, I wouldn’t say world, but maybe a parallel future?
If you are at all interested in this movie (which I think you should be), I suggest cultivating the appropriate mindset before going to see it. If you just keep in mind that this is del Toro’s homage to old monster movies and mecha, while understanding that this movie has no intention of being Oscar worthy, you should be able to enjoy the movie as much as I did.