I caught the movie last week. I had thought it was going to be a Transformers kind of movie because of the giant machines going into battle, and in some ways it was. It was very noisy and hectic in some parts. Sometimes I don’t know what the heck was going on during the fight scenes because they were so busy with so many things going on. But although a tad too deafening for my taste even for the genre (Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds is my idea of the perfect adventure sci-fi film) I found it entertaining, overall. I wasn’t mad like I was after watching the last Transformers, thinking to myself “what the f**k was that all about, just a lot of noise, I want my two hours back, blah blah blah.” I think what made Pacific Rim far better was the characters who were actually quite compelling considering it was an action movie. Probably because it was helmed by Guillermo del Toro, the Mexican director who also directed the masterpieces Pan’s Labyrinth and the two Hellboy movies. Those were great. They also feature monster characters, his trademark. Pacific Rim has monster creations and action sequences like no other of his previous movies I think, yet there was room too for greatly and sensitively drawn characters that you can root for.
Set in the near future in the 2020s, colossal alien creatures have risen up from a portal in the Pacific Ocean to destroy our world. We learn to fight back by building Jaegers, which are war machines just as gigantic. Each of this machine is manned by two pilots, whose minds are linked so that they can operate the machines, which are massive and require the mental capacity of more than one pilot. But over the years the monsters, named Kaiju, attack more frequently and evolve to be more destructive, destroying many of our Jaegers. Governments decide to halt the Jaeger project and turn to building massive coastal walls to protect the cities from the onslaught of attacks. The commander of the Jaeger project knows this is futile and comes up with a plan to use the remaining Jaegers to destroy the Kaiju at the source, the portal in the ocean.
The characters were all engaging and well played. And international. I love it that the female lead was Japanese for no reason, and not an ornamental love interest. Mako is an interesting character who wasn’t overtly sexy running around in revealing outfits, but wasn’t over-compensating by being all butch or tomboy either, just because she was a strong female as a pilot. She’s still attractive and feminine, and this character is deep and carries emotional baggage from what happened to her family when she was a kid, and keen to prove herself in the battlefield. I thought it was an excellent character both in its creation by Del Toro and how it was brought to life by Rinko Kikuchi.
The hero role was played by Charlie Hunnam. I enjoyed his performance and the eye candy his gorgeousness presented. The mentor role of Commander Pentecost was black British, played really well by Idris Elba both as a strict commander and a loving father figure to one of the characters. And there was an Australian pair of father-son soldiers (another interesting angle for characters), one of whom serves an antagonist role. These were well done too. Another pair of soldiers are Russian. Although their roles are small, they add a bit more colour and interest to the movie. The comic relief from the two mad scientists wasn’t very funny to me, so I guess they were the only letdown character-wise. Even then their characters are original. Usually the brainy character who helps out with the technical aspect of the adventure is just one person. Here there are two, and they somewhat complement each other like a yin-yang thing. And finally, to see Hellboy himself, Ron Perlman was so cool. It’s quite startling to realise I’ve liked his work since his Beauty and the Beast t.v. show. So that means I’ve been a fan for about a quarter of a century, wow. Here he plays the shady character of a black market dealer in the body parts of slain Kaiju.