Pacific Rim is the best movie of the summer by a country mile.
I could expound on the plot, but it doesn’t matter. It’s giant monsters vs. giant robots. A wormhole opens in a fracture in the Pacific Ocean and giant monsters come out of it and attack coastal cities. After American armor takes six days to stop the first one, the world’s armies throw aside their differences to build… yeah. Giant monsters vs. giant robots.
It’s actually much more intricate than that. The giant robots are too complex to control mechanically, so they have to be controlled mentally. But they’re too big to be controlled mentally by one person, so each “jaeger” has two pilots assigned to it who have to be in synch with each other at all times. This aspect adds a human element and context for complex relationships and a plot.
The film takes place after jaegers have fallen by the wayside because “kaijus” are emerging from the ocean faster and better adapted to fight, to the point that the mechas aren’t economically feasible and the U.N. has decided to build a giant wall around the ocean.
Early in the film, a kaiju is shown getting through the wall in about an hour, so clearly that’s not going to work. The four remaining jaegers must find a way to collapse the portal before the kaijus are coming too fast to handle.
Go see this movie. Want to see fantastic martial arts sequences? Go see this movie. Want to see the truest, least contrived cinema romance in years? Go see this movie. Want to see a giant monster choke to death on the husk of Ron Perlman? Go see this movie.
Pacific Rim is everything a blockbuster should be, and more importantly, these days at least, it’s nothing that a blockbuster shouldn’t be. Every summer, film after pulpy film slithers through the theatres, its every action sequence marred by obvious physical impossibilities, its every special effect obviously a computer graphic plastered onto film. Audiences walk out with their big action itch satisfied, but somehow still feeling cheated by the lack of care or thought put into the movie. This is a genre that is inexorably and inexplicably monopolized by the stupid and the careless. But this film has neither affliction.
The dialogue, while never really the focus, is clever enough to not take away from the main event — giant monsters vs. giant robots. Just enough context is added that the audience cares about the outcome, and the big kids are off to the races, but the dialogue is good enough that it feels like there’s more than that going on. It feels like there are real people piloting and commanding these mechas, and a real world that stands to be destroyed by the Godzilla-surrogates
Writer/director/producer Guillermo Del Toro is spot on with his creatures here — every kaiju and jaeger has its own on-screen personality and soul. But he knocks the script and non-giant scenes out of the park, too– a rarity for a director known for cool creatures but not much else. Charlies Hunnam and Day, alongside the incomparable Idris Elba, deliver sterling performances that drive the surprisingly OK dialogue.
Pacific Rim is a movie you can watch out of the corner of your eye, a movie you can latch both eyes on to and a movie you can actually think about without losing value to the viewer. It’s Godzilla without the camp and semi-racist context. It’s Transformers without Michael Bay.
There’s too much narration at the start, but that’s the only problem. That’s it. It is almost flawless, and simply being flawless within its oft-flawed genre makes Pacific Rim perfect within greater moviedom.
Joshua Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist, journalism and film student at the University of North Texas and a staff writer for the NT Daily. Unlike the State of Florida, he does not think it’s OK to murder suspicious-looking teens. For questions, rebuttals and further guidance about cinema, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. At this point, I’d like to remind you that you shouldn’t actually go to movies and form your own opinions. That’s what I’m here for. Be sure to come back later this week for a review of The Conjuring.