"Pacific Rim" (2013)- Movie Review

Written and directed by Guillermo del Toro
Also written by Travis Beacham
Starring Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi

‘Exhilarating Entertainment’

Over the last decade or so, the action movie genre hasn’t fared too well. Quite obviously, it’s products have succeeded in terms of money-making, gaining popularity as well as generating aspirations for big-budget franchises. What these films haven’t accomplished, however, is the ability to impress a more critical audience. Nowadays, when movie-goers look at an action-packed blockbuster, all they get is entertainment. Perhaps, a chance to turn off their mind and relax without worrying about anything. Here’s the problem though: these movies offer nothing beyond entertainment. Viewers looking for smartness, novelty or uniqueness are often left in furious disappointment.

Surely, the genre has seen some exceptions i.e. out-of-the-ordinary films such as “Inception” and “The Dark Knight”, but these types of movies arrive on rare, once in a while occasions. When they do hit theaters, they cause for celebration that Hollywood is putting effort into pieces of entertainment.

While not nearly as groundbreaking or defining as either of the mentioned films, Guillermo Del Toro’s robots vs. monsters “Pacific Rim” is a breath of fresh air for the action genre. Amidst all the disappointing superhero fare, doomed style-over-substance and horrendously idiotic motion pictures that have surfaced this year, Del Toro’s blockbuster is just the definition of fun. It’s an exhilarating, surprisingly original film that maintains goofiness and a self-awareness, but also marvelously balances elements of a story to achieve heights that would appeal to more than just your everyday action junkie. All of the components of a mindless pop-corn flick are there: countless explosions, huge action sequences and a loud soundtrack. Astonishingly, though, they aren’t the only ingredients that spice up this action-packed blockbuster.

Although the concept at first sight may come across as an excuse for another “Transformers”, it surprisingly isn’t. Taken aback? So am I. But in a manner as cheerful as if it were someone’s birthday. After witnessing the severe consequences of money-making schemes, the chances that a movie would break that trend seemed to be highly unlikely. “Pacific Rim” does and gleefully so. Here’s that rare gem of a pop-corn flick that wants you care to about it’s characters, offers sharp humor and delightful visuals that anchor breathtaking action set pieces.

Focusing on a monster invasion that has struck the Earth, its as entertaining as movies get and the kind of summer blockbuster that’ll have fans of the particular genre jumping with joy. Building off an original concept, the film focuses on the arrival of monsters from a portal hole in the Pacific Ocean. As the dangerous, and threateningly humongous creatures, called “Kaiju” rise from the water, humankind faces the apocalypse. In order to defeat the monsters, the human race build ‘monsters’ of their own: specialized machines controlled by soldiers.

If there’s anyone that knows how to perfectly stage an action sequence, its Guillermo Del Toro. With the playfulness and ease of a kid playing with their favorite toys, the director weaves together some of the most visually exciting, lively and glamorous fighting scenes of the year. A glimmering passion comes across through these aspects of the film; the feeling that this director knows exactly what he wants to do and accomplishes it in a near-flawless manner. It isn’t easy to craft these sequences; when looking at movies such as 2011’s “Call-of-Duty”-like “Battle: Los Angeles”, all they have had to offer (in terms of action) is a nauseating and uncomfortable experience for the viewer. Del Toro, however, doesn’t fall into that overload trap of throwing too many action scenes into his destruction caper.

Instead, he keeps a unique balance between the different elements of a story such as the characters and humor. Unlike the majority of filmmakers today, his ambitious aspirations don’t end at just providing great action sequences. He seems to understand the expectations of an everyday movie-goer, and impressively caters towards them. Characters are the last thing that a filmmaker would have paid attention to in this genre, but Del Toro shows that they do matter. In “Pacific Rim”, the two lead characters (Raleigh and Mako) have intriguing, emotionally affecting stories of their own. One of them has lost their brother in a fight between the built-machines and monsters, while the other is deprived of ever seeing their parents again. These two stories give you a sense that Del Toro wants to emphasize characters in a real-world setting and wants the audience to be emotionally attached to the story, as opposed to showing people as stereotypical, wooden creations that Hollywood usually produces.

While the cast isn’t made up of the most well-known stars, Del Toro still manages to get decent performances out of them. Probably the most popular and respected in the ensemble, Idris Elba fits in perfectly in the role of a stern, straightforward army general. It’s a thin character elevated by effective, toned down acting. Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi are other standouts that, despite little experience in the industry, give it their best. Hunnam makes for a likable, pure protagonist while Kikuchi develops a fascinating side character.

Comical relief is suitably provided by the cheerful and loudmouthed Charlie Day as well as Ron Perlman, who shows up for a short yet hilarious cameo.

With the help of an adrenaline-pumping score, Guillermo Del Toro adeptly keeps the pacing engaging yet chooses to end the film on an ordinary, familiar note. We’ve seen this type of ending many times before, and that’s a real problem when the rest of the movie is generally original in substance. Regardless, “Pacific Rim” is a high notch up from usual blockbuster fare. Its one of the most enjoyable times I’ve had at the movies this year, and perhaps one of the more well-balanced films in my recent memory.

As far as the Summer’s action-packed blockbusters are concerned, they better suit up and get ready cause it’s going to be a hell of a difficult job to top this one.

4/5 stars

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