After the first trailer premiered several months ago, “Pacific Rim” quickly became one of the most anticipated movies of the summer season. The advertisements haven’t divulged much about the film’s plot or characters. For the most part, they’ve only shown big monsters fighting big robots and Idris Elba giving a heated speech to his troops. That’s still more than enough to make any fan boy swoon like a teenage girl watching “Twilight.”
“Pacific Rim” pretty much delivers exactly what the ads promise. It’s a massive action picture that plays out like Godzilla vs. Transformers. Fortunately, this movie runs circles around Roland Emmerich’s 1998 “Godzilla” remake and Michael Bay’s “Transformers” trilogy. “Pacific Rim” is more reminiscent of an old-school Japanese monster picture with a multi-million-dollar budget and the best special effects the industry has to offer. There’s a key reason why the human characters aren’t played up in the trailers, though. They’re completely forgettable when compared to the film’s true stars, the monsters and the robots.
In the vein of most modern blockbusters, the opening narration rushes through the backstory so we can get to the explosions as soon as possible. In a nutshell, strange beasts known as Kaiju have invaded earth through a portal under the Pacific Ocean. They’ve come to our world to, you guessed it, destroy us all with little to no explanation. To fight off these monsters, the humans invent robots the size of the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man, called Jaegers. These machines don’t have minds of their own, though. They require two human pilots to be operated.
Charlie Hunnam is Raleigh Becket, who used to pilot a Jaeger alongside his brother. When his sibling has an untimely “accident,” however, Becket gives up Jaeger piloting to become a full-time brooder. Five years later, Becket is paid a visit from Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentecost, his former commanding officer. Pentecost asks Becket to come back and take part in a last stand against the Kaiju threat. While resistant at first, of course Becker eventually agrees to come along. His new co-pilot is Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), who has been terrorized by these monsters since childhood.
None of these characters are bad. The acting ensemble, which also includes Charlie Day as a scientist with a monster fetish and Ron Perlman as a Kaiju organ harvester, is all around solid. Pretty much everyone is likable, which is more than can be said about those tools in “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” Yet, the scenes with the humans are never as engaging as the scenes with the Jaegers duking it out with the Kaiju. These scenes are generally colorful, visually stunning, and flat out bad ass.
Anybody who spent hours of their childhood making a Megazord action figure fight a Street Shark toy will feel like a kid again watching this. At just over two hours, though, even the epic action sequences can overstay their welcome. The film literally throws a ton at the audience, leaving little room to breathe. While the action and CGI imagery is never dull, it can certainly take a lot out of a person. After a while, you kind of wish the constant fighting would take a break, or maybe give us more engaging characters to invest in, or just get to the end credits a half hour earlier.
Visionary director Guillermo del Toro of “Pan’s Labyrinth” and the “Hellboy” films has made a cool, vibrant blockbuster, but the product isn’t quite up to his gifted storytelling level. As far as recent summer movies go, “Pacific Rim” isn’t a great one like “Star Trek: Into Darkness.” However, it does exceed the hit and miss “Man of Steel” and flat-out misses like “After Earth,” “World War Z,” and “White House Down.” For all those who have been eagerly awaiting this movie, it’s going to give them exactly what they want. Just don’t be surprised if the experience starts to try your patience by the one hour and 45-minute mark.
• Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.