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Pacific Rim Review

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By Lewis Hurst

Throughout most of 2013 (and 2012 for that matter) Pacific Rim was the blockbuster movie to see with the general feeling being “It’s giant robots fighting giant monsters directed by Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone)! What can go wrong?” Quite a lot apparently.

Which isn’t to say Pacific Rim is bad. It’s just not particularly very good either. The main problem seems to lie in the script. Many critics are tossing around how original Pacific Rim is, but sadly to me there was very little in the film that seemed original. In fact, the concept of giant robots versus giant monsters isn’t exactly a new one (Power Rangers anyone?).

The storyline is particularly weak, weaker than your average Transformers sequel. Trying to keep things vague for spoilerphobes, let’s just say that several ideas, several great ideas, are introduced and are dropped with little fanfare. For example, a huge obstacle for our heroes is introduced in the climax but then a convenient solution arises almost a few seconds later, so convenient that most of the second and third act feel pretty useless and a waste of time.

Another issue with the movie is the characters. They’re all pretty one dimensional. Here’s the hero haunted by his past (Charlie Hunnam), here’s the sidekick (Rinko Kikuchi) trying to prove herself to her father figure (Idris Elba) who is also hiding something. And then everyone’s issues are dropped. Just like that. The movie tries to disguise this via “The Drift” in which the Jaeger pilots merge their minds and thus there is little need for their issues to be talked out and dealt with. But an earlier scene proves that their personal issues can still be a problem in The Drift, so you feel a bit confused as to why everyone gets over their emotional baggage so quickly. There’s also the fact that the leads aren’t very interesting in the first place. By the movie’s end you really don’t care about them as much as, say, Clark and Lois in Man Of Steel.

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The only characters I felt that I actually liked were three of the supporting characters. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman as two scientists who share a good back and forth, and Ron Perlman as a black market dealer who collects and sells dead Kaiju parts for their medicinal qualities (don’t ask). These are the only characters I wanted to see more of and didn’t receive nearly as much screen time as they deserved, which is a shame as they felt like the only ones who actually felt like characters. Idris Elba does a good job but feels like a walking cardboard cutout (like other characters). Every other one of his lines feels like something specifically written for the trailers which doesn’t help his character at all.

The action scenes are great. Nothing much to be said here. Industrial Light & Magic has clearly done a fantastic job on creating the Jaegers and Kaijus and the action scenes certainly rival anything you’ve seen in Transformers or the like. But the scenes have no emotional weight. The odd cutting back to the heroes inside the Jaeger don’t really make me feel emotionally invested in the events taking place. I know they serve to remind us that our heroes are inside the Jaegers, but it’s much less effective than cutting to Tony Stark inside the Iron Man helmet, although maybe this is because the actors don’t have as much charm and wit.

Final Verdict: 6/10

Now, I like dumb action movies (proud Transformers fan speaking), but here I just didn’t feel gripped or involved. I was enjoying myself and at times I would say the movie was good, but not good enough. And I didn’t even have high hopes for the movie. I wrestled between a 6 and a 7 for some time but I settled on 6. The movie is better than average, but just sadly not good enough to join the big leagues. Maybe next time Guillermo, dial your scale back a bit and focus on characters, developing them a bit more and making us care about them. This could have saved Pacific Rim.

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  • ShalkaDoctor

    Harsh review. You have issues with the characters in Pacific Rim yet you say you are a “proud fan of Transformers”. Michael Bay’s characters in those movies are the absolute worst. Nothing but thinly sketched caricatures, women are mere sex objects to be leered at, and the supporting cast are mostly racial stereotypes.

    • The Administrator

      My main issue was that Pacific Rim went to the trouble of making the characters more than stereotypes only to not do anything with it. At least Transformers has a focus (action) which I felt Pacific Rim doesn’t have.

      • ShalkaDoctor

        OK thanks for the clarification. I’m not sure I really agree with your assessment that they don’t do anything with them. I felt there was actual heart in PR. I honestly can’t tolerate 95% the characters in Transformers. They are so annoying. I also felt the action scenes were actually better in PR. I could actually tell what was going on and who was fighting what.

        • The Administrator

          I do agree that the action and characters were better in PC, but I don’t know. I just thought Transformers was a better film. Pacific Rim just felt off throughout most of the film. The film was screaming for me to love it, I really wanted to love it, but I ended up just liking it. Which is a huge shame.

  • Jill Oliver

    I love robots, explosions, and loads of action but I did not judge this movie on those attributes. I thought this film was an homage to the Godzilla movies I watched as a kid. Through that lens, for me at least, the movie hit big even if it was a tricked up 2013 version. The scientists were there, heroes saving the day, silly dialogue, not very dramatic drama, a child (even if a memory), a baby Zilla. All good for me.

  • GibbyBlogger

    A great review, Lewis!

    A lot of the reviews I’ve read for the film seem to say that, though it doesn’t have the greatest script, it is extremely good fun. And it seems yours is no exception. I do fancy seeing this but, as I have no spare change, I’ll have to wait for its DVD release…

    • The Administrator

      Thanks! I would recommend seeing it at the cinema if you get the chance. It’s one of the few films I recommend you see in 3D.

  • TwelthTheDoctor

    A great review, but I enjoyed the film more. My problem was that is was other way too quick.

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