16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
As personal as Pan,
This review is from: Pacific Rim [Blu-ray]  [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
Guillermo Del Toro is a filmmaker who has straddled the arthouse/mainstream divide since his first feature, Cronos, in 1993. This is because he himself apparently doesn't recognise this divide, so it isn't evident in his films. In terms of scale, style, and theme, Pacific Rim might be as far from, say, The Devil's Backbone as one can get, but it's just as much the work of its author, because Del Toro is as fascinated by the Spanish Civil War as he is enthralled by the Kaiju ("strange creature") tradition of Japanese cinema. Pacific Rim is Del Toro's love letter to Godzilla and its offspring.
The setting is the near future. The story concerns a Rift between worlds, through which 100-foot monsters are coming to Earth to kick-off big style. The only thing standing between the Rift and human annihilation is the Jaeger programme: humankind builds its own, metallic monsters to bodyslam the Kaiju into oblivion. They've a matter of months to "cancel the apocalypse". It's too barmy a premise to start asking serious questions (why not simply guard the Rift with nuclear warheads?), and this silliness is one of the film's strengths.
The special effects are a spectacle to behold. The giants never have the weightless quality of earlier CG, and the sense of scale is hugely impressive. Del Toro keeps the action admirably clear, eschewing the sorts of fast cuts that would have done an injustice to the immense power of his mighty pugilists. And while it is a film about fighting at the edge of annihilation, the tone is always light, with comic relief never far away - particularly when an old friend of Del Toro's shows up in the second act.
What drags the film toward mediocrity are the protagonist and the movie's sheer length. 90 minutes of melodramatic cliché would be a breeze - but we've well over two hours with Charlie Hunnam leading the way, and he's no leading man. I thought I was watching Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy) at first, but then I realised this guy has even less charisma. Main-man duties should have been left to Idris Elba, as the conflicted commander and protector of the dwindling Jaeger project, whose performance - heightened but subtle - is pitched perfectly for the material.
Pacific Rim was never going to be as deep as the ocean of its title, but to expect otherwise would be like complaining that there are no slow-mo shootouts in Good Night and Good Luck. It's a robot versus monster movie, from a moviemaker who loves the genre. It could have done with a shave in the editing room, and possibly some of that big budget could have gone on a star for the driving seat (even Will Smith had Bad Boys before he got the Independence Day gig). But if you're asking for a gleefully bloated, uncynical hooray for humanity, you can't ask for more.