Pacific Rim Review
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.
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.