Pacific Rim is the most confident film I’ve seen in 2013, a testament to its level of self-awareness and innate fun in its absurd premise. Odes to old monster movies and great blockbusters abound, with the plot centering on a rift in the bottom of the Pacific Ocean opening and aliens/monsters emerging to destroy our world. As humans, we all come together and collectively build robots that will defend ourselves. That allows the film to navigate the globe and round up what should be a bunch of stars, but mostly stand as solid actors: few know who Idris Elba or Charlie Hunnam is, but the cast here is well-rounded with strong character types like Charlie Day and Ron Perlman.
This is a fun film. It’s really that simple. The character development is not too refined, sometimes very forced in the film’s first half, but there are payoffs here that really work with the movie’s tremendously captivating action scenes. They are epic in scope and brilliantly composed, with the action surprisingly not being as big and hard to follow as I expected. The 3D here also might be one of the best uses of the technology I’ve seen to date, and for people who know me they can tell I’m not a fan of 3D…at all. Yet it didn’t bother me once throughout the film: there are darkly lit, fast-moving scenes, but they’re lifted by del Toro’s direction that seems to understand its boundaries.
What amazes me is not just that this is a good film, but that I found it genuinely thrilling and felt a stake in the action. This film is 130 minutes, which is pretty standard for a summer blockbuster, but it never once drags and has a continuous build that truly pays off. Here’s action that has meaning yet also feels ridiculous: it’s an entertaining movie that’s serious and funny, with del Toro doing what he did pretty damn well in Hellboy. He’s a talented director with a clear love for old-fashioned film. And with Pacific Rim, he delivers one of the biggest surprises of the summer. That’s because this isn’t a rehash of Transformers, as some love to say; this is a balls-to-the-wall Godzilla/Kaiju homage that is pretty damn entertaining.
Grade: ★★★★ (out of 5)