Pacific Rim review: The Kaijus and Jaegers collide

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When I was a kid, whenever I’d feel small or lonely, I’d look up at the stars and wonder if there was life up there. Turns out, I was looking in the wrong direction.

Audiences are given the premise and the movie begins. You are greeted with a short narrative of what led to the current fight between the invading beasts, known as “Kaiju”, and mankind’s achievement, the mechs known as “Jaeger”. There is never a dull moment, as you are thrown into the earth-shaking events and media coverage that spans the globe. And while not all conflicts are shown, they are alluded to. And before you know it, you are greeted to the story’s protagonist and the operations of a Jaeger.

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Before I continue, if you have not read Robert Walker’s article on why you should take an interest in Pacific Rim, I suggest you check it out.

One thing that director Guillermo del Toro emphasizes is scale. Assisted by Guillermo Navarro, who assisted del Toro in Pan’s Labyrinth, there were various shots that perfectly captured the scale and action of these titanic scenes. While at the same time, Navarro was able to balance those epic shots with the framing of non-CGI characters and their relationships.

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If you are enchanted by the Kaiju designs as much as you are enamored to those of the various Jaegers, you can thank Wayne Barlowe, who previously worked with del Toro on all his previous movies. Barlowe is a long-time concept artist who helped work on designs for Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy and currently, Pacific Rim. The ability Barlowe possesses to craft flesh into extraordinary shapes has infused del Toro’s vision towards majestic and horrific creatures in all their movies. And with Barlowe as the project’s lead creature designer, you can see the enthusiasm of the art team towards emulating Barlowe’s design aesthetics.

pr2Let’s clear some things first…

So many nerds/geeks alike can call out, “Oh man, this looks like Evangelion!.” Yes and no. Another media-reviewer mentioned it was more like “Gundam”. Guillermo del Toro even states that he’s pulled from various influences in order to create Pacific Rim’s universe. Whether it’s the old monster flicks or anime, del Toro managed to successfully capture what is considered to be a love-letter to those classic Japanese genres.

And while some may find the script cheesy, let me be one of the first to say that the script captures the intended character archetypes and relationships well. Certain characters may be larger-than-life, like Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentecost, or too flamboyant, like Charlie Day’s Dr. Newton Geiszler, but none of them have awkward lines that are out of place. All of their dialog and actions truly fall within their character. And I’ll admit, the names of these characters definitely stand out!

What its not…

  • Don’t expect something that promises a lot of depth and double-play between characters. Although each main character has a situation they must overcome, none of them have multiple layers that get jumbled in the mess.
  • These characters don’t have multiple quirks that need to be resolved, they all have quirks that define them.
  • There also won’t be a display of every single Jaeger that is mentioned or seen in the promotional posters. Its still great to leave things to the imagination of what those other Jaegers did in the many years of operation. You do get four primary Jaegers in the form of: Gypsy Danger, Crimson Typhoon, Striker Eureka, and Cherno Alpha.
  • No, GLaDOs’s voice isn’t showcased in this movie like the original trailer for Pacific Rim, but it does have a version of it.
  • This isn’t Transformers. Although it is a Big Robot movie and ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) also did the visual effects for this movie, there is nothing shared between the two.
  • It doesn’t try to be something it is not. Its a big robot versus big monster movie. Although it gives you a fully fleshed context, it doesn’t try to dilute it with excessive material that distracts you from the main stage.

pr6What it does well..

  • It creates iconic characters with believable relationships.
  • This movie orchestrates epic battles with little difficulty in capturing the view of each punch, tackle, or dismembering.
  • The world is a living piece, where you can feel it is inhabited by various people that have things needed to be done. But none of it overshadows any of the characters.
  • Illustrates scale through use of objects, like freighters, containers, and etc. in the action.
  • The simplicity of the script is carried by the believability of the emotion conveyed by the actors. Honestly, I almost shed a tear a few times.
  • There is nothing diluted in this movie, so everything you need to know is explained deliberately or through snippets of information scattered through the film.
  • Pacific Rim ultimately makes the kaiju genre of Japanese film appealing to the sophistication of the Western audience.

To further illustrate the success of “Pacific Rim”s effective translation of the genre to the Western audience, Hideo Kojima of “Metal Gear” fame, gave his approval through several tweets:

“I have never imagined that I would be fortunate enough to see a film like this in my life. The emotional rush I had inside me was the same kind I had when I felt the outer space via “2001: A Space Odyssey” and when I had touched the dinosaur in “Jurassic Park”. Animation and special effects movies and shows that I loved in my childhood days – they all truly exist in the screen.”

“Director Guillermo del Toro offers this spectacular vision of massive kaijus and robots in PACIFIC RIM. This film is not simply a film to be respected, but most importantly, it let us dream the future of entertainment movies. Pacific Rim is the ultimate otaku film that all of us had always been waiting for. Who are you, if you are Japanese and won’t watch this?”

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Pacific Rim also earned praise from Go Nagai (Mazinger Z), Fumito Ueda (Ico, Shadow of the Colossus), and character-designer, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (Evangelion).

While Guillermo del Toro has accented the movie with every detail that is representative of his style, from the varying references and homages to big monster movies and robot movies, he doesn’t forget to pay homage to the early pioneers of the genre: Ray Harryhausen and Ishiro Honda.

pr8With the ups and downs of this summer blockbusters, I can ensure you that this is one movie you shouldn’t miss. But if there’s something that comes to mind, share your thoughts on this movie. We would love to know your thoughts!

Grade: A

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Jaynesis Ong
Jaynesis Ong 162 posts

He is currently a graphics designer by trade, illustrator for indie games, fashionisto, film production assistant, socialite, sampler of fine music, and taster of various new MMO games. JB likes destructive walks on the beach, visceral plot points, maniacal villains, and collapsing galactic empires.