Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pacific Rim

Somehow a regularly proportioned poster of this film just wouldn't suffice. Ever since I first saw the trailer for this film, and with a visionary like Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth) at the helm, there was no doubt that Pacific Rim would be unlike any blockbuster action movie out there. It looked like a combination of a throw-back Godzilla film and Transformers (in a good way) with a touch of Independence Day thrown in. Every time I've mentioned this movie to people they always seem to have an excited gleam in their eye, even as their response voices a healthy dose of skepticism. To all those people let me just reassure you right now, this is a massively entertaining film and should be seen in a theatrical venue if at all possible. 

In the near future, a group of massive monsters (referred to as "Kaiju") gradually materialize from an inter-dimensional portal that lies in a crevice on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Attacking cities across the world, humanity's resources are depleted in the losing battle against the Kaiju. Over time the human race begins building a new kind of weapon: enormous sky-scraper sized robots known as "Jaegers". The Jaeger program proves successful, as more and more Kaiju are eliminated. However, adapting to the fighting style of the Jaeger pilots, the Kaiju overcome and destroy all but a handful of the giant robots, causing the united governments to pull their funding. With the alternative plan of constructing massive walls to keep out the inter-dimensional creatures proving folly, humanity's last hope lies with the few remaining Jaeger pilots launching an all-out assault against the rapidly approaching apocalypse.

I had the pleasure of seeing this film with a friend on the biggest screen available last night, the IMAX theater at the Jordan Commons Megaplex. If you can, I definitely recommend seeing this film on the largest format possible, as the bigger the screen is the more immersive this epic monster film will feel. As indicated in the trailers, it bolsters action on possibly the grandest scale I've ever seen and will definitely give moviegoers an experience they've surely never had in a theater. From the thumping bass of the score to the crushing sound effects of the titanic battles, Pacific Rim is a film that demands to be seen in the cinema.

The most magical and astounding part of this film is the design and realization of the Kaiju monsters. As del Torro will tell any reporter who asks him, this movie is very much a love-letter to the monster movie genre. After seeing this film, however, I would have to go a step further - this is the monster movie to end all monster movies. I just can't imagine another one that could compete with the colossal destruction beautifully captured in this film. Next year's reboot of Godzilla certainly has its work cut out for it to duplicate this level of excitement and adrenaline.

Despite the thrill-ride this movie is, the characters are surprisingly fleshed out and complex. Each one has unique characteristics that add another dimension (pun intended) to the story, making it so much more than just another Michael Bay car commercial. Del Toro brings so much to even the most minute details that every scene gets you more invested in humanity's plight and more interested in the Kaijus' ultimate purpose. Even the method in which the pilots operate the Jaegers (a two-person neural bridge) allows for back-story and emotional development even while in the midst of incredibly tense moments.

None of the actors in this film are household names, but each one of them comes to play with the part they're given. Charlie Hunnam (a relatively unknown actor who I only recognize from Nicholas Nickleby) plays the lead hero, Raleigh Becket, who is struggling to cope with a recent tragedy. His physicality definitely sells the toughness of the part, but it's his emotional vulnerability exuded through his eyes that gives the character a soul. Idris Elba also does a great job as the head of the Jaeger program, bringing authority and weight to what could be a pretty thankless role. The only performance that didn't quite match up for me was Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori, a prospective Jaeger pilot with unparalleled fighting skills and a tortured past. She definitely pulls off the fighting scenes and even some of her dramatic moments are done well, but her lack of command for the language was a bit distracting at times.

This film might not be the most dramatically satisfying, but it's one of the most entertaining and unique movie experiences of the year. It's difficult to discuss all the intricacies that make the plot so unique without getting into spoilers, but suffice it to say that Pacific Rim is a visual masterpiece and a surprisingly original take on the "end of the world" movie trope we've so often seen. I give this movie a solid three and a half stars.

PACIFIC RIM is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief language