Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, and Rinko Kikuchi
I convinced myself to go see Pacific Rim with the excuse that I’m a fan of its director, Guillermo del Toro. Both The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth blew me out of the water, so I said to myself, “I have to go see this.” But I think somewhere inside me I already knew that this movie would turn out to be what the banners and trailers advertised: a WWZ-like fighting fest of giant robots vs. giant monsters. Alas, my gut feeling was right.
Pacific Rim tells the story of how an earth-wide military army of robots fights against an invasion of ever more numerous alien monsters. That’s it. And it absolutely delivers in the robots vs. monsters department. For those of us who grew up watching Japanese mecha anime like Mazinger Z, this is a dream come true. The robots are huge, beautifully complicated fighting machines, so complicated in fact that it takes two pilots — connected at the level of brain functions — to run each one. Very much like Mazinger, the pilots enter the robot through the head, not in a flying “fielder,” but in a falling cage.
However, in terms of characters and plot, the movie is nothing more than one would expect. All the main characters are two-dimensional at best. The closest thing to a rich character is the rigid and proud Stacker Pentecost (played by a forceful Idris Elba), but even he comes too close to a caricature of himself at many times during the movie. The secondary characters are as one-dimensional as can be, full of stereotypes regarding their nationality, gender, and background.
The plot is also painfully predictable, to the point that it is easy to say that this movie has no plot beyond what is necessary to keep the robots and the monsters fighting each other. My recommendation is to take this film for what it is: giant fighting robot porn for the nerdy mind. The visual special effects of the robots, their mechanical workings and, to a large extent, their fighting capabilities are catnip for the lovers of the mecha genre. The 3D cinematography is very well executed — almost on par with Avatar — and is certain to please the fantasies of many MIT students.
So, if you want to see giant robots and monsters boxing in the sea, grab your popcorn and feast your eyes. Just don’t build up your expectations in the hope del Toro will deliver another serving of Backbone or Labyrinth awesomeness. Watch it for the brawn, not the plot, because there ain’t no story worth a dime here.