This is one of those movies that I saw the trailer and made squeaky noises normally reserved for stuff involving hobbits. For someone who was never a huge Godzilla fan, I still have a soft spot in my heart for giant monster movies, as well as giant mecha anime. (That may be a holdover from loving Power Rangers as a kid.)
Pacific Rim is a movie that’s like a love letter to both of those genres. In fact, the dedication at the end is to Ishiro Honda, the original director of the Godzilla films, and Ray Harryhausen, stop-motion animation monster master. I walked in not expecting anything more than giant mechas fighting giant aliens from under the sea, and this movie ended up hitting so many happy nerd buttons for me I don’t even know where to start.
In Pacific Rim aliens called “Kaiju” have started emerging from an interdimensional rift deep within the Pacific Ocean. The Kaiju are massive, destructive, and hard as hell to kill. When it becomes clear the invasion isn’t going to stop, the world governments come together to fund the Jaeger Program, which gives humanity an army in the form of gigantic robots controlled by two human pilots.
After more than a decade of war, though, the Jaegers are deemed too expensive and the program is scuttled. With only four Jaegers and a handful of pilots left, the remaining members of the program prepare a desperate final charge that will either save our planet or doom it.
(minor spoilers follow)
One of the things I enjoyed the most about this movie was that while the plot itself was a little predictable, the way it handled the characters wasn’t.
Raleigh, our main character, seems like he should be the haunted, hotheaded, reluctant hero type, given what happens to him in the beginning of the movie. But while it’s clear he still mourns for his brother, it’s also clear that he’s moved on once he rejoins the Jaeger Program. He’s surprisingly level-headed and not at all irritable about ending up with a brand-new co-pilot.
That brand-new co-pilot, Mako Mori, is a young Japanese woman who’s never been in a Jaeger but has one of the best records in the simulator. She has an equally horrific past, something that wreaks havoc on her the first time she’s in a Jaeger. I liked how she pushed back for what she wanted but managed to stay respectful and not rebellious when she did.
I loved the relationship between Mako and Raleigh because they didn’t force it to be romantic. You could read it that way, if you wanted to, but you could also see it as a perfectly platonic one, the closeness that comes from being inside someone’s head in an extremely stressful situation. I liked that Raleigh was patient with Mako, opening up with her and encouraging her to open up to him.
I also absolutely adored Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost, the marshal in charge of the Jaeger Program. Part mentor, part leader, and boy, does he have some great lines. (There are several scenes between him and Raleigh that are just fantastic.) He is bound and determined to make this final charge work, no matter what it takes.
Unexpectedly awesome were Charlie Day and Burn Gorman as Newton and Gottlieb respectively, the two scientists who are pretty much the entire research department for the Jaeger Program. They’re complete opposites, constantly giving each other crap, but are actually very close friends. They’re so much fun I just wanted to hug them. Day in particular was fantastic as Newton, who is practically obsessed with the Kaiju, to the point of having tattoos of several all over his arms.
Not to mention Ron Perlman showing up as Hannibal Chau, the man who runs the black market in Kaiju goods in Hong Kong. I totally wasn’t expecting him and he was so very many kinds of perfect that I might have squealed a little bit every time he was on the screen.
And now, can we talk about how great this movie looks? Because it looks great.
I didn’t see it in 3D, so I can’t speak to how the visuals are in that respect, but overall the effects hit high marks for me. We got some great battles in between the Jaegers and the Kaiju, both in the middle of the ocean and then in the middle of the city. (And yet they STILL managed to be less destructive than Man of Steel.) Since both the Kaiju and the Jaegers have different abilities, their strategies vary based on who they’re fighting, which adds to the excellence of those scenes.
And really, since giant mechas fighting giant aliens was the whole reason I went to see this movie in the first place, those scenes really rocked it for me.
If you’re a fan of either giant mechas, Godzilla, or giant robots fighting giant aliens, then go see Pacific Rim the second you get a chance. It’s a lot of fun and a great tribute to those genres.