When I walk into a movie theater to see an action film, I make a deal with the filmmakers. I promise to walk in as a ten-year-old ready to be amazed. All I ask of them is that they not spoil that illusion. If my adult brain kicks in too much then it hinders my enjoyment. Guillermo Del Toro not only took my challenge but he raised the stakes, he not only left my child’s mind engaged, he took me back to being 4 years old watching my very first Godzilla movie in my grandparents’ bedroom. Since that is a day that helped build me into the geek girl that I am, this is a very, very good thing.
Pacific Rim is the story of the world after it has suffered through 7 years of monsters, called Kaiju, stomping out cities. There is a crack in the earth beneath the Pacific Ocean that they come through periodically. The governments of the earth joined together to create a force of giant robots, called Jaegers, to combat the beasts. This worked well for many years but the monsters got stronger and more deadly and the robots couldn’t keep up with them. At the time when the movie takes place the governments have given up. They are decommissioning the Jaegers and throwing all their resources at building walls around the coasts of all the continents. They’re tired of fighting and losing so they are giving up.
Idris Elba, playing Stacker Pentecost, disagrees with this option. He wants to keep fighting, in fact he wants to take the fight right to the source. When the government refuses his plans he continues on anyway. The Jaegers are now the resistance.
Jaegers are run by two pilots whose minds are synced together to control the robots. Often related, they must be compatible to make it work. Charlie Hunnam plays Raleigh Beckett, a pilot who lost his brother while they piloted a Jaeger against a level 4 Kaiju. He completed the mission piloting alone and then went into hiding. Stacker naturally goes to find him to complete his team. He gets paired with a novice female pilot, Kato Mori, who has her own reasons to want revenge against the Kaiju.
I don’t feel like I watched this movie, I feel like I lived through it. The battles are intense and amazing. As my son said during one particularly intense battle, “ok, I don’t want to ride this ride anymore”. You care about the robots and the pilots within so you feel their pain. I was concerned at the opening that this was going to be another of those films where you only get glimpses of the monster, but this is not the case here. You see them in all their glory and it is glorious. The effects are amazing and it has some of the best 3D I’ve ever seen.
It also has ties to a long tradition of monsters and robots. Fans of the genres will see it’s ties to the Godzilla movies of old and Evangelion most of all but there are also traces of Attack on Titan, Gigantor, Voltron and even the video game Portal and many others I’m sure I’m not aware of.
Pacific Rim touches on hubris, the power of fear, victim-hood and the importance of continuing to fight until you can’t anymore to varying levels of success. It also has one of the most pleasantly diverse casts I’ve seen in a big budget film. In the end most of you are not going for any of those reasons. You’re going to see monsters and robots tear each other apart. In that you will not be disappointed at all.