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Pacific Rim: High Concept, Big Fun

Humans piloting giant robots to save the world from monsters emerging out of the sea to exterminate us all.

by
Stephen Green

Bio

July 13, 2013 - 7:32 am

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Short version: Best popcorn flick of the summer.

Longer version? OK, longer version.

Giant monsters (Kaiju) from another dimension are invading earth through a trans-dimensional rift at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. They come one at a time, months apart, giving mankind time to unite and figure out a way to fight the beasties. And of course you fight giant sea aliens by building giant, human-piloted battle robots (Jaegers). The neural connection between man and robot is too much for a single human brain to handle, so two pilots are connected together in a neural “drift” and act and fight as one. Think of them as a flesh-and-blood RAID 1 array, if you’re geeky like that. The problem is, the alien attacks are growing more frequent and of course the aliens are also getting bigger and tougher. They even evolve weapons of their own, like acid spit and an EMP-type thing.

If you think giant monsters versus giant robots is just an excuse for city-busting battles… well, yeah. Of course. And if you think the neural “drift” is an excuse to heighten the human drama… well, yeah. Of course. Even better, the deeper connection between the characters, the better they connect in the “drift,” and the better they fight.

I told you it was high concept.

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In an effective opening battle, hotshot Jaeger pilots Raleigh Becket (Sons of Anarchy‘s Charlie Hunnam) and Yancy Becket, brothers, set the stage for what’s to come. Yancy dies fighting — while the two are neurally connected. Raleigh feels everything his brother does, right up until… nothing. Raleigh then goes into hiding for five years, while the alien attacks increase.

So of course Raleigh gets called back for one last stand, and of course his new neural mate (Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori) is young, pretty, and with a past of her own. I should also mention that Hunnam nicely avoids the TV Star Disease of seeming too small, too personal, for the big screen. He has a big-budget actioner on his shoulders, and he carries it effortlessly. Even Tom Hanks moved from TV to movies in baby steps, but not Hunnam. If he’s smart, he has a real movie career ahead of him.

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You also get a hard-ass military commander (of course) in Idris Elba’s Marshal Pentecost. He too has a past and doesn’t want to see Mako have to fight. There’s a father-son team played by Max Martini and Robert Kazinsky to very nice effect — I even had an honest sniffle or two. There’s a Russian team you’d like to have gotten to see more of, and ditto for a team of three brothers who fly a three-armed robot with spinning blades for hands.

There’s comic relief in two bumbling scientists (Charlie Day and Burn Gorman) with just the right amount of cheese. And of course they find the secret to closing the rift and saving the Earth from certain doom. Most fun of all might have been Hunnam’s Sons costar Ron Perlman in a supporting role as an illegal dealer in alien organs. Of course he does that Ron Perlman thing he does so well, all strut and menace with maybe a little heart in there somewhere. And that pretty much rounds out the cast, except for a few thousand Hong Kong extras, many of whom of course get shmooshed up in classic Godzilla style.

Of course the battles are epic, but most importantly the battles are comprehensible. There’s none of this super-zoom shaky-cam BS where you can never tell who’s doing what to whom. Director Guillermo del Toro knows how to tell a story through the action, without losing sight of the human (Hunnam?) element. The battle scenes reminded me most of epic versions of the mana-a-mano fights The Bourne Identity. That’s as high praise as I can offer an action flick.

Are there any surprises? Not a one, unless you count just how well executed the movie is. The good guys win, the bad guys get blown up real good, and of course everybody dies who you figure is going to die. But the predictability doesn’t matter because you’ll be entertained and enthralled in equal measure every step of the well-worn way. There’s also plenty of shirtless Hunnam for the ladies and for certain gents, and plenty of hot ass-kickery from Kikuchi for the other gents and for certain other ladies. There’s spills and chills and just a touch of romance — but no kissing to offend my seven-year-old son who just swears “THAT WAS THE BEST MOVIE IN HISTORY!”

Well, no.

But it is two hours very well spent, and if there’s a sequel (of course there will be a sequel), then I’ll be back at the theater for more.

****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

Stephen Green began blogging at VodkaPundit.com in early 2002, and has served as PJMedia's Denver editor since 2008. He's one of the hosts on PJTV, and one-third of PJTV's Trifecta team with Scott Ott and Bill Whittle. Steve lives with his wife and sons in the hills and woods of Monument, Colorado, where he enjoys the occasional lovely adult beverage.

Comments are closed.

All Comments   (18)
All Comments   (18)
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At slightly over two hours I found the non-stop action exhausting to watch. Whatever happened to the old ninety minute time limit on movies? It's also pretty clear that the movies are no longer United States centric. This film is clearly aimed at the Asian market, with mainly Aussie actors...er, warriors defending Tokyo against the sea monsters. I guess that doesn't mean much to the young but if you grew up when America was the undisputed center...it's sad.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't think your critique is really fair, in this case. There is a country with a long cinematic history of having its cities stomped on by Godzilla, Gamera, Ghidara and other assorted kaiju... and it ain't America. Centering the action in Asia wasn't slighting America, it was just being true to the source material.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
So Stephen Green's idea of "high concept" is "humans piloting giant robots to save the world from monsters emerging out of the sea to exterminate us all." I'll keep this in mind in the future when he offers his opinions about anything.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
from dictionary.com
high concept :noun, a simple and often striking idea or premise, as of a story or film, that lends itself to easy promotion and marketing.

Giant robots fighting giant monsters is literally a textbook example of high concept. I'll keep your understanding of language (or lack thereof) in mind when you offer any future opinions.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Want to see someone who doesn't understand sarcasm? Look in a mirror.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yep, keep on supporting those leftists, as they use their money & fame to help destroy America.

And when your grandchildren ask what YOU did to try to fight their enslavement, you can tell them, "Well, I watched a few good movies!"

39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Mothra rocks! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qU1OTH6X8M

Actually it's a Gundam or Neon Genesis ripoff: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljXFL4dyDIk

I was always partial to Starblazers anyway: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5oniErmeuE

Hahaha, it still cracks me up :D
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sounds like a lot of fun, and I can't wait to see it, but I'm amazed no one has mentioned this is a live-action (mostly) tribute to every "giant robot" anime made in the last 40 years. Gundam? Giant Robo? Voltron? So many examples, so many toy tie-ins. :)
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Seems to me I saw a Godzilla film made some years ago that had giant suits like that with pilots inside.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's silly and cliche-ful. And plain Summer fun. I enjoy Guillermo del Toro's work, especially the visual aspect of several previous flicks. Here the super-sized Ironmen vs. huge dinosaur-ish monsters is visually fun, and even nostalgic.

This following Despicable 2 definitely has Summer on a high note. Too many bad flicks. Now two Summer-time fun flicks.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'd rather spend 2 hours watching my son play with Legos. Last time I checked Darth Vader had joined forces with Two Face to battle Batman and Indiana Jones. Now that's high concept.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thank you for bringing me back to the moment when my son (23 now, 6 then) announced the crisis of his current play: "The Ferengi let the Romulans take over the Pride Lands!"
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Loved, loved, loved it. It was exactly what it was supposed to be. The movie equivalent of kids playing with Lego.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
No, your son is quite correct. This film takes awesome and then smacks it in the face. 2 hours just wasn't enough!
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
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