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Movie Review: “Pacific Rim”

13 Jul

This movie was pretty much review-proof for me. No matter what the critics said, I was going to be there opening weekend. Robots fighting gigantic monsters in a big-budget epic spearheaded by Guillermo del Toro (director of my favorite film of all time)? Count me in.

And yes, the film is every bit as awesome as promised.

In the not-too-distant future, massive saurian creatures called “kaiju” have started to emerge from a chasm at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Facing extinction, humanity banded together to create “Jaegers” – enormous armored sentinels controlled by two mind-melded pilots (bear with me). At first, the Jaegers were successful…until the kaiju began to evolve and adapt. Enter Becket (Charlie Hunnam), a burned-out Jaeger pilot traumatized by the death of his brother. Under the command of marshal Stacker Pentecost (the always-welcome Idris Elba), Becket must overcome his personal demons before the kaiju overrun humanity’s last defenses.

It sounds horrifically geeky (on par with the “Transformers” franchise), but del Toro somehow manages to make it work.

In an admirable display of directorial restraint, del Toro resists the urge to jam-pack his movie with nonstop carnage. There are three clearly defined fight sequences, each of which is both integral to the plot and gorgeously choreographed. Moreover, the film has a coherent beginning, middle, and end; not once does it feel like a cash-grabbing attempt to start a new franchise. And for what it’s worth, del Toro does a good job of building dramatic tension: for the first time in ages, I actually found myself wondering how in the world the heroes were going to prevail.

Technically speaking, this is the créme-de-la-créme of apocalyptic sci-fi flicks. Everything in del Toro’s universe is meticulously detailed, making for an immensely immersive cinematic experience. One gets the sense that a real civilian culture has developed in response to the kaiju menace, which creates a sense of raw humanity utterly lacking in “Transformers” and its ilk. This is further heightened by the use of real-world miniatures and hands-on special effects…not everything here is glossy CGI. The “used-future” aesthetic of the original “Star Wars” films was clearly a major influence.

The acting is solid, although no one’s going to win any Oscars. Those looking for tortured character studies will be out of luck, although the mind-melding aspect (“drifting” in the film’s own vernacular) brings a little more depth to the proceedings. That said, the leads all turn in solid performances, and watching Idris Elba bellow “today, we are canceling the apocalypse!” is magnificent enough in its own right.

Those with no interest in science fiction or smash-’em-up action-adventure movies will not enjoy “Pacific Rim.” I’d even go so far as to say that this is very much a “guy film.” But for those within the target demographic, del Toro succeeds in delivering a nerdstravaganza for the ages. Maybe I’m biased (the repressed geek inside me is jumping for joy at the fact that this movie even exists), but it’s fair to say that “Pacific Rim” more than delivers. “Man of Steel” was a crushing disappointment; “Pacific Rim” most certainly is not.

Honestly, this is one movie that demands to be experienced on the big screen; here, one finds that gloriously kinetic sense of wonder that seems to have been machined out of most modern blockbusters. In short, “Pacific Rim” is grand-scale popcorn entertainment that blows its summer competitors out of the water.

VERDICT: 9/10
Movies like this make it worthwhile to go to the theater. Highly recommended.

Normalized Score: 7.9

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Posted by on July 13, 2013 in Sci-Fi

 

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