Director: Guillermo del Toro Writers: Travis Beacham, Guillermo del Toro Studios: Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Idris Elba, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman Release Date (UK): 12 July 2013 Rating: 12A Runtime: 131 min
“Pacific Rim” is a mega-budgeted summer blockbuster about giant robots doing battle with giant alien monsters, and it puts Michael Bay’s “Transformers” movies to shame. Inspired by the Japanese anime franchise “Neon Genesis Evangelion” and the Godzilla and Mothra B-movies of the ’50s and ’60s, it imagines a near-future world in which towering bioluminescent beasties emerge from an interdimensional portal deep beneath the Pacific and kill millions upon reaching land. In an effort to deal with the growing alien threat, humanity unites and initiates the Jaeger program, in which piloted, skyscraper-sized rock-em sock-em robots are constructed to go fist-to-face with the invading “Kaijus” and rescue mankind from the impending apocalypse.
This inevitably leads to senseless, city-destroying carnage and billions of dollars-worth of property damage, but unlike in Bay’s soulless cash cows, there’s a beating heart to be found amongst the wreckage. This is to be expected from director Guillermo del Toro, the Mexican filmmaker who gave us the enchanting dark fantasy “Pan’s Labyrinth” and the giddy comic-book actioner “Hellboy.” In the sequel to that last film, 2008’s “The Golden Army,” del Toro also paid loving tribute to the creature feature genre in a surprisingly poignant scene where a newborn fifty-foot plant-creature attacks a city — upon its death, there’s not joy but sadness, as it’s revealed that the exterminated creature was the last of its kind.
It’s that same heartfelt sense of humanity that fuels “Pacific Rim,” though you won’t be shedding any tears for these big ugly brutes: loud and ferocious, insectoid and crustaceous, the Kaijus are proper movie monsters who’ll turn a city and its entire population to dust without a second’s thought. You might, however, become misty-eyed in a scene where a frightened young Japanese girl named Mako flees from an attacking Kaiju in the street and cowers teary-eyed behind a bin in an alleyway. Years later (now played by Rinko Kikuchi), she’s a rookie Jaeger pilot who joins forces with the more experienced but recently washed-up Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam), who’s been left troubled after watching his brother (and former co-pilot) die at the hands of a Kaiju. Together, they pilot one of the last remaining Jaegers and make a last-ditch effort to defeat the Kaijus once and for all when a plan is devised to destroy the portal linking their world and ours.
Fun support comes from Idris Elba, who chews scenery just as much as the Kaijus demolish it as he plays the stern head of the Jaeger program, while Charlie Day and Burn Gorman provide rib-tickling comic relief as a pair of bickering rival science geeks. But stealing the show even from the destructive Jaeger-on-Kaiju action is the unbeatable Ron Perlman, who plays the strikingly monikered Hannibal Chau, a black market trafficker of harvested Kaiju parts — not even a mountainous mecha-bot bashing gargantuan hellspawn over the head with a full-sized cargo ship, as awesome as that may be, can top Perlman’s toothy grin and grizzled growls.
This film is enormous fun, perfectly capturing the boundless, boisterous spirit of a Saturday morning cartoon show and directed with such irresistible affection and enthusiasm by del Toro that only the grumpiest of grumps will struggle to get caught up in the fun of it all. Del Toro has said in interviews that working on this project reawakened his inner 11 year old — and now, thanks to its release, “Pacific Rim” can do the same for audiences worldwide.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 72%
Metacritic Score: 64/100
IMDb Rating: 7.8/10