Besides the presence of a major movie star, Pacific Rim has everything and is everything expected of a summertime blockbuster.
It has spectacular special effects, a huge budget, outlandish sets and costumes, cardboard characters and artificial-sounding dialogue. And it is fast-paced, action-packed and deliciously ridiculous.
Mexican marvel Guillermo del Toro, who is incapable of directing a boring movie, co-wrote and directed this over-the-top pastiche of machines and monsters. He brings an unusual perspective to his apocalyptic tale, taking time and care to explain and to show how his monsters have sprung from the ocean floor to terrorize the world.
Pacific Rim begins in 2020 Alaska, seven years into the war against the Kaiju, the giant sea monsters out to destroy the world if not for the manmade hunting machines that face off against their foes in crude hand-to-claw combat.
While looking impressive, with their flexible bodies, honed skills and built-in destructive weapons, the machines highlight the film’s most laughable inanity: OK, the world faces a cataclysmically destructive enemy. To fight it, forget nukes, lasers or drones — let’s battle them with motorized Mike Tysons.
Since monsters vs. manmade-machines is virtually all that Pacific Rim is about, the human element lags behind (not surprisingly).
Charlie Hunnam plays Raleigh Becket, trained to take control of one of the two-person hunters. Having previously lost his partner-brother during combat, he comes equipped with a built-in backstory to want redemption.
Opposite Raleigh is Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), similarly out to prove herself in battle. Besides them, other stereotypical characters provide the standard authority and personality conflicts.
And since every nominally serious blockbuster needs comic relief, Charlie Day and Burn Gorman play two overly excited scientists — who, if this were a Disney film, would be played by a chipmunk and a squirrel.
Del Toro freely showcases his derivative, cinematic influences: A Hong Kong setting comes straight from Blade Runner, with its perpetual darkness, constant rain and slick, crowded streets. Some of the monster sequences have more than a hint of Alien; the hunters often look like reworked Transformers. And the monster themselves often look like bigger, meaner, scarier and more capable versions of that old movie warhorse, Godzilla.
Del Toro keeps the formula simple, sticking to established norms of the genre — not surprising for a summer blockbuster.
Rated PG-13, 129 minutes.