Pacific Rocket Punch

Pacific Rim: written by Travis Beacham and Guillermo del Toro; directed by Guillermo del Toro; starring Charlie Hunnam (Raleigh Becket), Idris Elba (Pentecost), Rinko Kikuchi (Mako Mori), Burn Gorman (Gottlieb), Charlie Day (Geiszler), and Ron Perlman (Hannibal Chau) (2013): Pacific Rim is a hoot, an expensive homage to every Japanese movie and cartoon that gave us gigantic, city-destroying monsters and/or giant, man-shaped, world-saving robots and cyborgs. There’s even a rocket punch, and monsters that could clearly beat the crap out of Leonard Maltin AND Sydney Poitier. But not Robert Smith!!!

The movie even mostly hangs together as a thought experiment, though it overcomplicates the plot in a couple of ways. The most problematic overcomplication is the movie’s premise that humanity has stopped making Jaegers — the giant human-run robots that are the only effective defense against the monstrous Kaiju that periodically come striding out of a dimensional rift in the Pacific Ocean floor — and instead turned to building a giant, and soon-to-be-proven useless, wall around the Pacific (!!!!!!!!). It would have been a lot simpler to note that the defense program is temporaily short on Jaegers due to the increase in period and frequency of Kaiju attacks, and move on.

Other than that, though, the movie is a lot of fun, with an emphasis on teamwork over individuality, and a multi-national cast that may have hindered its box-office performance in the United States. Either that, or they should have just titled it Transformers: Pacific Rim, even though the robots don’t actually transform.

The main cast of Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, and Idris Elba is tremendously likeable; the twitchy scientists played by Burn Gorman and Charlie Day are intermittently amusing and ultimately heroic; the Kaiju organlegger played by Ron Perlman is a welcome jolt of energy. The robots look great, as do the Kaiju, though I wish the filmmakers had spent a bit more on visual effects and given us one extended Jaeger vs. Kaiju battle staged entirely in the day-time. The murkiness of the night battles and the undersea battles sometimes gets a bit annoying.

The best Kaiju sequence, as if from a postmodern fairytale, involves one of the gargantuan monsters — this one vaguely crab-like — chasing a little girl through the streets of Tokyo. It’s scary and funny, and better than pretty much any visual effects sequence from any other blockbuster this summer. Highly recommended.

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