Pacific Rim (PG-13)
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
This is gonna be a tough one.
In reviewing Pacific Rim, I need to be able to look at it without bias. I have to look at it as a standalone film, not based on any preconceived notions or any familiar tropes. I have to be a stoic critic, and not get overly excited over anything that seems familiar.
I need to do this, but I don’t know if I can.
For most of my 36 years on earth, I’ve been an anime fan, specifically of the giant robot – or mecha – genre. One of my earliest memories is watching Tranzor Z on our local independent station. I was fascinated with the robots and the story presented to me. I later transitioned to Voltron and anime like Gundam Wing, Martian Successor Nadesico, The Vision of Escaflowne, and of course, Neon Genesis Evangelion. So, when I say I know the tropes, I really know the tropes. I also know I have to bury that knowledge and present the facts as they are presented on screen. And, the adult in me realizes that I just watched a movie that was full of plot holes and stilted acting.
The overwhelming childlike part of me realizes that I just saw the greatest live action anime ever.
On the surface, Pacific Rim is a story about aliens known to the world as “kaiju” who come from a wormhole in the Pacific rim (see what I did there?) with the sole purpose of annihilating the human race. In order to combat this, the world’s governments came together to form the Jaeger project: giant robots piloted by two individuals who are mentally linked by a process known as “drifting”. The opening set piece is full of action, and the movie is sprinkled with bits of expy here and there to ensure the audience isn’t overwhelmed.
This is essentially a live action anime, and the tropes are here in full force; hell, the Japanese character Mori, played by newcomer Rinko Kikuchi, even has anime hair! Watch this movie and then look up a picture of Akane Tendo, and tell me you don’t see the resemblance. Charlie Hunnam does a passable job as Jaeger pilot Raleigh Becket, but his sole purpose is to crack wise, flirt, and pilot the gotdamn mech. Idris Elba does what Idris Elba does, which is take command and lead his troops. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman – known to us ProFans as Owen Harper from Torchwood – serve as great exposition characters. On top of that, it was great to see del Toro favorite Ron Pearlman pop in for a few important scenes.
Guillermo del Toro loves giant robot anime, and his love for the genre shows throughout this movie. The fight scenes are wonderfully filmed and choreographed, and it was reminiscent of watching the Evas fight the Angels in Evangelion. In fact, most of them reminded me of every giant robot fight I have ever seen…and I’ve seen a lot. The score was done by Ramin Djawadi, familiar to those who have seen Game of Thrones and Iron Man, and the theme was glorious.
The movie was fun to watch, and I’m glad I was able to see it in the theatre. I did have some problems with it, specifically a few instances of the camera being right on top of the action, a la Michael Bay’s Transformers movies, but…I had a lot of fun with it. But…I can’t overlook a lot of the wooden acting. Like I said at the beginning, this is a tough one to review, but I think I have a solution…give it two ratings. One as a critic, and one as a fan. Yeah, it’s a cop out, but it’s the best I can do.
My (critical) rating: C+
My (fandom) rating: A
UPDATE: Rinko Kikuchi (Mako Mori) is not a newcomer to cinema; in fact, she is an Academy Award nominee for the film Babel. I apologize for this error.