Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Pacific Rim pits robots against monsters in what may be a silly, preposterous premise, but it's so much fun, you'll feel like an excited 12-year-old all over again.
Guillermo del Toro, the genius director of Pan's Labyrinth and the Hellboy movies, wastes no time in setting up an elaborate back-story; he lays out the basics in a quick opening voice-over and hits the ground running. The year is 2020, and the world is at threat from giant monsters that have slipped in through a crack in the bed of the Pacific Ocean. These dinosaur-like amphibious creatures, known as kaiju, are fast wiping out entire cities. To take them down, the military has created a fleet of massive robots, or jaegers. Two human pilots whose minds have been biomechanically linked are placed inside the robot's head so they can control all of its movements.
Sure, the idea of massive robots as defenders of mankind evokes memories of Michael Bay's Transformers movies. But del Toro is exactly the kind of filmmaker who was required to bring some degree of craftsmanship and originality to the genre. So the smackdowns between the kaiju and the jaegers in Pacific Rim aren't just orgies of sound and fury. There's thought gone into the creature design, and each of the robots comes with his own set of skills and weapons. The numerous clashes between monster and metal are the big draw here, and del Toro delivers exactly what the fans want to see. Creatures go crashing into buildings; in one scene a ship is used as a club to whack the enemy with, and battles rage both up in the skies and below in the oceans too. If you watch the film in IMAX 3D like I did, you'll have a stupid grin plastered all over your face because it's all just unbelievably entertaining.
Expectedly, in between the action sequences there's a sliver of a plot involving human characters. Charlie Hunnam plays a robot pilot still coming to terms with the death of his brother in a jaeger operation five years ago. He has an unconvincing romantic track with Rinko Kikuchi, playing an untrained pilot who becomes his new partner. Idris Elba is their stern commanding officer who must do whatever it takes to protect the human race, while Charlie Day shows up as a nerdish scientist trying to probe the kaiju brain. There's also a nice cameo from Hellboy star Ron Perlman as an underground smuggler of precious kaiju organs.
Nicely shot, much of it against the neon streets of Hong Kong where the film's latter portions are staged, Pacific Rim is the kind of film that combines the Hollywood blockbuster aesthetic with a real love for Asian monster mythology. I'm going with four out of five. It's more enjoyable than everything else Hollywood has thrown our way this summer.
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Yash Sharma, Mumbai