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Pacific Rim Review: Giant Robots Duke it Out With Huge Monsters

By Andrew Burgon / phoenix@projectfellowship.com
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November 14, 2013

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Release: July 12, 2013
Running Time: 131 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Screenwriter: Travis Beacham and Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Raleigh Becket, Rinko Kikuchi,  Mako Mori, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman,  Max Martini, Herc Hansen, Robert Kazinsky, Chuck Hansen, Ron Perlman,  Hannibal Chau
Genre: Action & Adventure, Sci-fi & Fantasy
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Gargantuan alien monsters and powerful, colossal robots fighting it out on land and sea pretty much describes Pacific Rim.

A dimensional portal has opened on the pacific ocean floor. From here the “Kaiju” make their entrance into our world and wreak utter destruction along the pacific coastlines. In response, countries around the world band together building human operated robots comparible in size and destructive power called Jaegers. For a while it seemed that humanity had the upper hand only to be stomped under foot by more powerful Kaijus who are appearing more frequently.

The story follows Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam.)  While piloting a Jaeger with his brother they are attacked by a ferocious Kaiju that punctures the robot’s head and kills his brother. The shock of it devastates Raleigh all the more so as he was mind-melded with his brother at the time. He leaves the program to work on a great wall that is being built to keep the Kaiju out. Meanwhile, the Jaeger program becomes less and less effective in dealing with the Kaiju and is about to be closed down. There is one last desperate attempt though to strike the Kaiju a fatal blow. The remaining Jaegers will set-off from Hong Kong with the intent of detonating a nuclear weapon inside the portal.

The no-nonsense Marshall Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) recruits Raleigh back into the program to pilot the Jaeger, Gypsy Danger. He is not welcomed back into the program by all though. Mako (Rinko Kilkuchi) who works closely with Pentecost believes he’s not suitable. So to does the arrogant Australian Jaeger pilot, Chuck Hansen (Robert Kazinsky,) who doesn’t want the not-up-to-the-challenge Raleigh to watch his back.

Pentecost reluctantly let’s his adopted daughter, Mako, co-pilot the Gypsy Danger with Raleigh with almost disastrous cannon blasting results. Despite being grounded, pure desperation thrusts the unlikely heroes back into the Gypsy Danger to aid the other Jaegers that have been ambushed. With only two Jaegers making it to the portal a last minute revelation by two goofy scientists reveals an added level of difficulty to the mission that they will have to overcome.

As would be expected the movie is driven by intoxicating visuals and high-octane action especially as it approaches the edge of it’s would-be apocalyptic ending. Spectacles abound like the opening fight scene of a Jaeger protectively picking up a boat in stormy seas and battling it’s opponent while keeping the boat safe. The fight towards the end in Hong Kong has the city’s neon lights as it’s backdrop for the death match of two titans.

Part of the kinetic energy felt in the movie is conveyed by the two pilots inside the Jaegers who are suspended in a virtual reality-like apparatus. Once their minds are connected via a neurological bridge they move the robot using their movements and gestures.  There are two pilots because the mental strain of operating one is too great for a for a lone pilot.

The Jaeger machines certainly bring some serious cool cred to the movie. Each model is unique and it’s appearance seemingly inspired by the country it comes from. Jet propelled punches, missile launchers, laser cannons and a large, razor sharp sword can’t help but appeal to the kid inside many of us.

While the movie isn’t going to be noted for great, robust characters there is enough here to engage our interest. Raleigh, a lost troubled soul who faces his fears and courageously gets back into a Jaeger. Mako, also haunted by a tragic event who has her initial doubts concerning Raleigh. Pentecost, the glorious former hero and backbone of the Jaeger program. The dyfunctional Australian father and son team the latter of which is on his knees begging cinema goers to hate him… and succeeds.

To their credit, amid the  destruction and mayhem, Del Toro’s team fuses it with some welcome humor courtesy of two comical, oddball scientists and a black marketer. Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) focuses on the physical aspects of the kaiju and ends up mind-melding with one. His counterpart is Gottlieb (Burn Gorman), a mathematician who is attempting to predict the frequency of their attacks. Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman) is the eccentric and dangerous black marketer with a fetish for shoes who sells Kaiju organs. His re-emergence at the end is corny but delicious.

Pacific Rim is a pure popcorn monsters-on-the-rampage movie with visual punch and an irresistible sense of fun. A fusion of Godzilla and up scaled Transformers that is well-and-truly overdue! It does manager to dish out a little more than this. An intrigueing connection between man and machine. Interesting characters to watch and a dash of humor courtesy of two scientists and a black marketer. Sounds like my kind of night out.
 
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