The monster vs. man genre of movies has been around for an incredibly long time. It’s tough to add anything new these days that we haven’t seen before. In Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, he doesn’t reinvent the wheel in terms of storytelling, but he does certainly offer the best looking monster vs. man movie to date, no questions asked. From beginning to end, this film is one of the most visually striking since Avatar, and that’s saying something. del Toro also directs some of the best actions sequences to be put to film this year, and probably the best ones since the Chitari invaded Manhattan in last year’s The Avengers.
Going into a movie like this one, everyone expects the selling point to be the monsters, called Kaiju, and the machines that fight them, Jaegers. There’s no problem in having that mindset, but the actual people in the film hold their own against their skyscraper-sized counterparts. Leading the fight against the Kaiju is Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentecost, a former Jaeger pilot who is now heading up the program. Elba plays the character as a man who always shows poise and control, but who is also willing to do anything he needs to to get the job done. In fact, Pentecost is somewhat similar to Elba’s most famous character, Stringer Bell in The Wire, in that there is always respect shown to him, but he also isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, as he demonstrates in the excellent final act of the film.
Also shining in the film are Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy), Rinko Kikuchi (Babel) and Charlie Day (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). The story follows Hunnam’s character Raleigh Becket as he goes from hot-shot Jaeger pilot to the bottom of the barrel, and then his ascent back to reluctant hero. It’s a different role from his starring role in Sons of Anarchy in that Becket isn’t nearly as head sure of himself as Jax Teller is, and Hunnam plays Becket as a much more vulnerable character. Becket’s co-pilot Miko Mori is played by Rinko Kikuchi. Mori’s backstory calls for vengeance, and Kikuchi portrays that on screen perfectly. The scene with her and Hunnam when they first drift is excellently done. In to provide some of the comic relief amidst all the destruction is Charlie Day. He plays Dr. Newton Geiszler, a scientist who wants to understand exactly how the Kaiju operate. Screenwriter Travis Beachum gave Day’s Newt some of the funnier lines in the movie, and some of Charlie Kelly coudn’t help but shine through.
Getting back to the stuff that most people are going to pay to go see, the actions scenes throughout the movie are all top notch and incredibly exciting. From the opening Kaiju-Jaeger fight to the bout in Hong Kong to finale on the ocean floor, the visuals are so jaw-dropping that you forget (read: don’t really care) what’s on screen is completely CGI. I would have had absolutely no problem watching two straight hours of Kaiju vs. Jaegers, and I feel like del Toro knows that about most of the people going to see this film.
Pacific Rim doesn’t break any new ground in terms of storytelling, but the visuals, strong performances and actions sequences are good enough reasons to check this out. The term “summer movie” was coined for films like this one, and that’s definitely not abad thing.