It’s Transformers meets Godzilla. Or perhaps it’s more like Real Steel meets Jurassic Park. However you slice it, if you can check your brain at the door, Pacific Rim is a rollicking good time, a film that’s all special effects and essentially no storyline at all.
Okay, okay, there’s a storyline. Sort of.
Through a deep sea rift that turns out to be a portal to another dimension (through a transdimensional connection that we humans can map and render in 3D on computers, even though we can’t get past into the tunnel. Huh?) huge monstrous creatures called Kaiju have emerged with massive appetites for mayhem and destruction. The film opens with a great scene of one of the Kaiju tearing the Golden Gate Bridge apart like a kid opening a box of candy.
The Kaiju can be killed, but they’re mighty strong and even our toughest fighter jets and weapons are ineffective. To fight them, we humans therefore skip the silly planes and tanks and build massive 25-story-high robots called Jaegers, controlled by having a pilot inside the robot’s head. That doesn’t work too well, so the most recent Jaegers are controlled by two co-pilots, synched together via a neural bridge called “The Drift”.
As the years pass, most of the world’s major coastal cities are destroyed and while the Jaegers get increasingly powerful, so do the Kaiju. So what do us genius humans do? Decide to retire the Jaegers program and just build a really big wall that protects every coastal city in the world.
Do you think a wall is going to keep a monster 10x the size of a T-Rex safely penned up? In Jurassic Park John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) famously did, but we all know that it didn’t really work out too well.
It’s no surprise in Pacific Rim when the Kaiju smash their way through the wall minutes after they encounter it. Didn’t these silly humans test the wall’s effectiveness before building it? Fortunately for the planet, there’s still a cache of old Jaegers that are functional, along with their cliché retinue of pilots straight out of Central Casting.
If you’re guessing that the story’s all going to come down to one Jaeger against a stream of increasingly freakish Kaiju, you’d be right. Luckily Gipsy Danger, as the key Jaeger is called, is piloted by retired former controller and now slacker Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) and peppy but troubled Japanese trainee Mako (Rinko Kikuchi). del Toro even gives us the other cliché of this sort of genre film, a steel-jawed über-tough soldier named Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), former commander of the Pan Pacific Defense Corp and their tough-love boss.
Everything I’ve explained about the story and background is all irrelevant, however. I don’t know why I even expect there to be a story line.
In fact, Pacific Rim is all about the battles and special effects, and those are all produced by the crack team at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). Having auteur Guillermo del Toro as director helps ensure that there’s a strong element of fun, that it’s a solid action film that rarely slows down for what we film critics call “narrative exposition”.
To really understand this film, you need to know that it all started when head writer Travis Beacham was walking along a foggy beach in Santa Monica, California. A image popped into his head “of a monster rising from the surf to meet a giant robot waiting on the shore to do battle.” In a nutshell, that image really is the soul of Pacific Rim.
If you’re a science fiction fan, if you love mecha, comic books and have a soft spot for those old B-movies, especially from Toho Films (Godzilla, Mothra, et al), if you can suspend your disbelief and enjoy a film that’s really just a series of increasingly epic battles between improbable robots and creepy monsters, you’re just going to love ‘Pacific Rim’. See it as I did: IMAX 3D. Well worth the extra money. It’s a whole lot of fun.