It’s ‘Transformers’ meets ‘Godzilla‘. Or maybe it’s more like ‘Real Steel‘ meets ‘Jurassic Park’. However you slice it, if you can check your brain at the door, ‘Pacific Rim’ is a rollicking good time, a film that’s all special effects and essentially no storyline at all.
Okay, okay, there’s a storyline.
Bear with me. Through a deep sea rift that turns out to be a portal to another dimension (through a transdimensional pipe that we humans can map, even though we can’t get past the rift guardians) huge monstrous creatures called Kaiju have emerged and have an infinite appetite for mayhem and destruction. Indeed, the film opens with a great scene of one of the Kaiju tearing the Golden Gate Bridge up like it’s a giant Twizzler.
The Kaiju can be killed, but it’s incredibly hard and even our toughest fighter jets and weapons are ineffective. To fight them, we humans eschew silly planes and tanks and build massive 25-story-high robots called Jaegers, controlled by having first one, then ultimately two co-pilots within the head of the robot, synched together via a neural bridge called ‘The Drift’.
As the years pass, most of the world’s major coastal cities are destroyed and while the Jaegers get increasingly powerful, so do the Kaiju. So what do us smart humans do? Decide to retire the Jaegers entirely and just build a huge coastal wall.
Now let me ask you, do you think a wall is going to keep a monster 10x the size of a T-Rex safely penned up? John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) did, but we all know that it didn’t really work out too well in ‘Jurassic Park’. So it’s no surprise in ‘Pacific Rim’ when the Kaiju just smash their way through the wall minutes after they encounter it. Didn’t these silly humans test things? Lucky that the Jaegers are still functional, along with their cliché retinue of pilots straight out of Central Casting.
If you’re suspecting that the story’s all going to come down to one Jaeger against a stream of bad-ass Kaiju, you’d be right. Luckily Gipsy Danger, as the Jaeger is called, is piloted by slacker former controller Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) and bubbly Japanese trainee Mako (Rinko Kikuchi). Hmm… missing from the picture? Oh yeah, a steel-jawed tough soldier. del Toro’s got that covered with Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), former commander of the Pan Pacific Defense Corp and their tough-love boss.
Everything I’ve explained about the story and background is all irrelevant, however. ‘Pacific Rim’ is all about the battles and special effects, and those are all produced by the crack team at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). Having the brilliant Guillermo del Toro head the team helps ensure that there’s a strong element of fun, that it’s a solid action film that rarely slows down for what we film critics call “narrative exposition”.
To really understand this film, you need to know that it all started when head writer Travis Beacham was walking along a foggy beach in Santa Monica, California. A image popped into his head “of a monster rising from the surf to meet a giant robot waiting on the shore to do battle.” In a nutshell, that image really is the soul of ‘Pacific Rim’.
If you’re reading ScienceFiction.com, if you love mecha, comic books and have a soft sport for those great old B-movies, especially from Toho Films, if you can suspend your disbelief and enjoy a film that’s really just a series of increasingly epic battles between improbable robots and creepy monsters, you’re just going to love ‘Pacific Rim’. See it as I did: IMAX 3D. Well worth the extra money. It’s a whole lot of fun.