Guillermo del Toro has got a little bit of the ‘Raimi syndrome’ in that he began his career rather humbly, making very cheap, but very good horror movies. For those who have followed his career I have it is great to see a genre director make it into the big time and, although he is not making traditional genre movies any longer, this does not in any way detract from my enjoyment of seeing how his flourishing imagination is translated onto the big screen. In this case a really big screen.
‘Pacific Rim’ is big in every sense of the word! If this were a low budget release it would possibly marketed as ‘Godzilla vs. Transformers’ as the plot revolves around massive human driven robots called Jaegers, created by a global alliance, who defend our world against the ferocious Kaiju, equally giant sea dinosaur type creatures who come from a mysterious rift deep under the sea. In all honesty there isn’t much mystery about the whole thing at all, in fact all you need to know is that these big creatures basically appear, head towards the mainland intent on chomping and stomping their way around until confronted by a Jaeger. Thankfully what happens then is nothing short of breath taking.
Before I talk about other plot aspects let me first say how amazed I was with the special effects. Now stoics, especially those in the horror community who shun every aspect of CGI - and often with good reason - let me just say that this simply couldn’t have been pulled off any other way. The fights between monster and robot are so amazingly choreographed with such attention to detail in the lighting and destruction that it begins to mess with your mind how real it looked. The Blu-ray transfer I am reviewing from is one of the best transfers I have ever seen. Del Toro’s influence here is evident in every way, from the robot/creature design, to the atmospheric conditions in which the two giants do battle. I felt with his previous ‘Hell boy 2’ effort he was a little restrained when it came to the fantasy elements, but here he has gone all out. Each robot is helmed by two pilots, cerebrally attached to the machine. The fights scenes seamlessly switch between the real human scenes, to the external CGI sequences, so much so that you actually care as much as what happens to the robots as much as you do the pilots - it’s not just that they have been anthropomorphised with names, it’s just that they are so cool!
The plot has quite an interesting concept, and rather than being a simple one dimensional jaunt like Jackson’s ‘King Kong’, there are some nice little side stories to keep the intrigue going, although I’m not going to suggest they are particularly deep, they do something to keep you interested in the few scenes in the movie where the titans aren’t kicking the crap out of one another. The idea of the world united by a common threat seems almost conceivable, as is the pleasant notion that the human race could be so much more, if we could all just get on. The way the robots work promote an ethos of team work, as well as to have a small basis of science with each pilot controlling each ‘hemisphere’ of the robots motion. Of course your standard American jocks would have to run the show and save the day, with all other nationalities simply fulfilling their stereo types, but there you are! The acting is a bit wooden, and the script is your typical Hollywood formula of heroes gruffly spouting the usual ‘we can do this’ cliché, and the goofy scientists providing the comic relief, whereas the misunderstood asshole character is, well pretty much exclusively an asshole. It works, and the audiences like it so let’s just leave it at that.
Overall ‘Pacific Rim’ is finally a Hollywood blockbuster which deserves the title. It’s great to see a horror vet up there at the helm to. For fans of monster movies, but back your Godzilla vs. Mothra VHS and prepared to have the dust blown out of your basement. This movie not only makes you realise why you bought all that expensive TV/Surround system, its damn good fun as well.