Release Date: 12th July 2013
Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman
In a summer filled with sequels, superheroes and franchise re-boots, it’s a relief to finally see Hollywood put their faith in some original ideas. Del Toro’s first feature film since 2008’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Pacific Rim has all the right ingredients to make geeks across the world shit their pants: 250ft tall mechs, gigantic monsters, a cool director and a slightly obscure-but-geek-friendly cast. On the flip side, Hollywood will also most likely be soiling themselves while they frantically try to figure out how to market a movie that has no stars and cost upwards of $150 million to make. The end result is hardly original in the sense that it’s an emalgation of hundreds of other films before it (Top Gun, Starship Troopers and obviously Godzilla spring to mind), but it really is one hell of a ride. Essentially a two hour long live action anime; dialogue, story and characters are secondary to bombast and spectacle.
7 years from now we’re locked in a near-constant war with the gigantic ‘Kaiju’; an alien race that have appeared from an inter-dimensional portal beneath the Pacific ocean. In retaliation we launch ‘The Jaeger Program’; huge mechs that are controlled by two pilots whose memories are locked through a process known as ‘drifting’. “The stronger the bond, the better the fighter” says our hero, Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam); a cock-sure young’un who pilots the Jaeger known as ‘Gipsy Danger’. There’s really not much else to tell; Idris Elba plays his boss Stacker Pentecost (best name ever), Rinko Kikuchi his co-pilot, Charlie Day a Rick Moranis-in-Ghostbusters-esque crazy scientist, and Ron Perlman a shady black market dealer called Hannibal Chau. It’s incredibly simple stuff; the sort of fare where everybody’s backstory is summed up in one sentence and the dialogue deals almost exclusively in one liners.
The difference between this and, say, Michael Bay’s Transformers, is in the approach to its material. The script is bare bones and at times utterly ludicrous, but there’s so much love and care gone into every frame that it’s difficult to care about its flaws. On top of its incredibly spectacular action sequences, it has a prominent female character that isn’t a love interest or even white, other minor characters that are also non-white or non-American, and no product placement. Some might lose their patience during the second act, in which Charlie Hunnam endures some tedious and predictable character development, and the script really is dumb, but it’s delivered with the right amount of comedy and self-awareness to make it work. It’s incredibly loud, too; but thank God, or the people talking constantly in the row behind would’ve got a bollocking.
At the end of the day though, it’s refreshing to see a blockbuster that isn’t sexist or racist, not part of an existing franchise and made with genuine care. That really shouldn’t be too much to ask, but it says a lot about the state of the modern blockbuster when it’s a huge gamble to believe in fairness and originality: hopefully it’ll pay off for Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures. In short: go and see Pacific Rim, even if it is just to prove the bastards wrong and to help Del Toro finally adapt At The Mountains of Madness.