Big Boys Toys – ★★★★
Pacific Rim is basically the movie that the 48-year-old Guillermo del Toro has made for the 12-year-old inside him. No, the acclaimed director hasn’t eaten a prepubescent teen, he’s just embracing his inner child by serving up a satisfyingly mega blockbuster about giant robots fighting alien dinosaur things.
Those words simplify the general plot but really it’s the kind of story that is intended to fit into a little text area on the side of an action figure box as del Toro takes on the “youngest movie” he has ever made. It’s the near future and some aliens (called “kaiju”) are attacking the earth at increasingly regular intervals, the international community works together to build a defence system of enormous robots (called “jaegers”) which are manned by two people in the head of the suit whose brains are connected as they do the physical movements which are then mirrored by the jaeger.
It’s very simple to get your head around and calls to mind the “yeah I can believe in this” of the Na’vi-human avatars in Jim Cameron’s ridiculously successful 2009 picture. In fact how you felt about Avatar will probably go a long way toward your reaction to del Toro’s latest. If you can put aside a derivative, functional script with cliched characters and embrace spectacle and awe-inspiring fun then you’re going to love this, though it certainly isn’t a film with a screenplay that will end up on any college syllabuses any time soon.
There’s a host of Asian influences at play here (unsurprisingly considering the Hong Kong setting) and you suspect the film will do very well in the Far East where they do love a bit of sword-fighting and Godzilla-action. Mako Mori (played by Rinko Kikuchi) is probably the most developed character and provides a lot of the movie’s heart. We’re introduced to her under an iconic black umbrella and are treated to a great flashback scene featuring an encounter with a kaiju from her childhood which provides motivation for why she wants to be a jaeger pilot. Her co-pilot, Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam) is an English actor and is fairly forgettable as the film’s lead. Elsewhere we’re treated to absolutely brilliant work from Idris Elba, Ron Perlman and the hilarious star of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s” Charlie Day. The latter is particularly brilliant in a mad scientist-type role in a tag-team with Burn Gorman’s Gottlieb.
While it would be so easy to pick apart the film’s politics, plot and characters it feels like trying to put together a critical thesis on the poor cinematography in SpongeBob SquarePants. If you are lucky enough to see this in IMAX 3D, you will be entertained for two hours and continually in awe as the robots get stronger and the creatures get bigger. It’s a film that unashamedly sets out to entertain but does so with beautiful design and careful attention to detail (as is always the case in GdT’s films), leaving us with one of the most enduring, satisfying blockbusters of the summer season.
Released in Ireland on July 12th 2013 nationwide.