Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
My immediate thought after watching Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim was, “Why has it taken me 4 years to watch this film?” Everything about the film was great, and it deserves to be recognized as incredible example of what an action film could and should be. It’s a film which proves that del Toro pours his heart and soul into the imaginative worlds and stories he creates. Pacific Rim is del Toro’s beautiful and intense homage to the Kaiju genre which is seeing a newfound growing popularity with the recent Godzilla remake and the upcoming Kong: Skull Island film.
What makes Guillermo del Toro such an impressive director is his ability to create worlds that seem illogical and borderline nonsensical, but for the film make perfect sense. In Pacific Rim giant monsters (Kaiju) come up from an interdimensional portal at the bottom of the Pacific ocean called, “The Breach.” These Kaiju attack several major cities while humanity struggles to defend themselves with our modern day weapons. Thus the Jaeger program is created. Instead of using jets and tanks and missiles to take down these monsters, humanity fights fire with fire by created giant humanoid robots (dubbed Jaegers). These Jaegers are incredibly effective against the Kaiju. After years of the Jaegars stopping Kaiju attacks, the world feels safe enough to replace the robots with giant protective walls. After one of these walls is destroyed in seconds, several governments work together to reintroduce the Jaeger program to make one final assault against the Kaiju and the Breach. This brief summary is pretty close to the same one given at the beginning of the film. In order to create this fantastic world del Toro provides this brief alternative history which paints a clear picture of what the audience is about to see. It even gives an explanation for why the Jaegers require two pilots instead of one. It’s a premise that on paper seems ridiculous, but played out on screen it almost makes sense.
The world that del Toro makes is bright and colorful like an anime brought to life. The scenes in Hong Kong are bright with colorful neon lights, and the Jaeger cockpits feature a bright fluorescence with all of the computer screens and lights surrounding them. Even if you’re someone who hates action films, Pacific Rim can be appreciated for its beautiful visuals and cinematography. Even in scenes where the colors are more muted to provide a natural look, del Toro playfully uses color to emphasize important elements that he wants to add importance to. Apart from the color, the Jaegers are given a realistic quality with their design. The main Jaeger, the Gypsy Danger, looks very similar to a military jet with the giant turbine on its chest and head shape. Even the other Jaegers in the film are designed to look like the evolution of a weapon that humanity would make. In a similar fashion, many of the Kaiju have animalistic qualities that make them look more like mutated versions of something you might see at a zoo, rather than something alien. It’s these subtle elements to the monsters and machines that bring the pure insanity of the film to a reasonable level.
Even if the film tries its hardest to ground itself in reality, it still takes some time to remind the audience that it is an action film that can take liberties with the reality it has created. During one of the Jaeger/Kaiju fights in the middle of the film, the Jaeger punches through an office building, and the fist, while destroying everything else, just barely taps a newtons cradle which starts the tick-tack of the balls back and forth. Its a silly moment in the middle of a serious fight that breaks the reality for just a minute to remind one of how ridiculous the film is. But, it doesn’t completely ruin the scene in the same way Marvel injects humor into its fight scenes. There are several scenes like this sprinkled tastefully throughout the film. Del Toro first foremost wants to create a film that is a homage to the old Godzilla and Kaiju films, which he succeeds at, but he doesn’t want to completely ignore the campiness those films include. Without that, the film would be too serious to be remotely enjoyable.
Another huge part of del Toro’s world building that is tough to ignore in this film is his blending of different cultures and nationalities. The Jaeger teams in the film consist of Americans, Australians, Chinese, and Russians. The world of Pacific Rim is one brought together by the introduction of a new threat to all of humanity, not just one nation. The inclusion of all these different groups feels natural and not like a studio trying to force diversity into their films. With each of the different Jaeger teams, comes different ways the teams attack the Kaiju. Each of the Jaegers have their own unique weapons to attack the Kaiju in different ways. It adds a fun aspect to the film.
Pacific Rim manages to capture your imagination in a way that very few action films can. It’s a creative take on the Kaiju genre, that Guillermo del Toro has added his own unique and fun twist on. It’s not a very emotionally deep film, in fact in includes almost all of the action film cliches in the book, but that’s ok. It never tries to be anything different. With the exception of the opening monologue, the film never takes the time to explain itself. It assumes the audience is smart enough to figure things out or accept the film for what it is. The whole film is a modern homage that feels more relevant today with the existence of the Godzilla remake, and the recent influx of nostalgia in films. This film is worth viewing for its visuals and sound alone.