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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Pacific Rim (3-D) | Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman. Clifton Collins Jr. | Review

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Jacqueline  Monahan

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Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
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Pacific Rim  (3-D) | Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman. Clifton Collins Jr. | Review

This is one of those films you have to approach already knowing what the subject matter is, because you won’t get it from the title.   Is it about sushi?  WWII combat?  Polynesian wildlife?

No, no, and no.  Pacific Rim is really about monsters (Kaiju) from the deep – not just the bottom of the ocean, but deep within fissures that break open at the bottom of the ocean into some kind of portal to another dimension.  Now that’s deep, but it’s the only part of the film that is.

The original graphic novel prequel, "Pacific Rim: Tales From Year Zero," by the film's co-writer Travis Beacham (Clash of the Titans) and supervised by writer/director Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) gives some character backstory, and even names a monster or two (one type is called Knifehead) so readers might be a bit more knowledgeable going in – not that it’s necessary.

Taking place in the not-too-distant future, (2020 and a few years beyond) massive Kaiju emerge from the ocean, step on cities and smash bridges.  People that paid premium housing prices to live on the coastline find themselves, their buildings and cars treated like empty aluminum cans and footstools for the rampaging beasts.  

Worldwide efforts to combat the Kaiju result in the Jaeger (German for “hunter”) Program that creates giant weaponized robots, manned by two human pilots that engage in a neural bridge syncopation (brain meld) that allows them to operate the machine as a unit.  Two are needed because the task is too large a burden for a single pilot, and each shares the other’s memories.  

Kaiju/Jaeger clashes are noisy and destructive, with most taking place in the ocean so that cities and human life can be spared. These manned metal machines pound away at invading Kaiju, effectively vanquishing each one (so far).  As a result, Jaeger pilots are heralded as heroes of rock-star proportion, and Jaeger robots pose and flex and strut like the humans who run them.  One even jams a huge fist into the palm of the other huge hand for effect, as if that’s going to make a Kaiju think twice before it lunges at them with its phosphorescent teeth.    

Five years later, the Jaeger program is being phased out in favor of a new project called simply The Wall, to be built along the Pacific Coast in conjunction with a bombing of the portal vortex (called The Breach) to prevent further Kaiju arrivals.  There is one final use for Jaegers, however.

Summoned by former boss Marshal Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) Jaeger pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) comes out of retirement to aid in the new project. Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) is a female Jaeger hunter trainee who finds Raleigh attractive and wants to partner with him in his outdated machine, Gipsy Danger.  Raleigh’s former partner – his own brother - died on a mission five years before, and Mako’s got some childhood baggage to schlep around herself.  The two wounded warriors also face external resistance.

Then there’s Aussie Jaeger pilot Chuck Hansen (Robert Kazinsky) who dislikes Raleigh from the start, but is held partially in check by his father and Jaeger partner Herc (Max Martini).  Marshal Pentecost is against the idea of a Raleigh/Mako team for reasons of his own and headquarters Ops Tendo Choi (Clifton Collins Jr.) is a fountain of information for the whole gang whenever they can stop bickering and listen.

Meanwhile, dueling scientists Drs. Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) and Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) argue over how to predict Kaiju behavior.  Geiszler is a maverick who waves his arms wildly in the excitement of hypotheses and discovery; Gottlieb is a traditionalist, scribbling equations on a blackboard like a lab-coated Igor.

Geiszler heads into Hong Kong to find black market Kaiju organ purveyor Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman) in the hopes of locating a secondary monster brain to do the neural bridge hookup with.  Hey, it works for the Jaegers.

Problems abound in the puny human world, where interactions are ports of exposition for conflicts and a teeny tiny romance that seems forced and contrived.  Like frilly, unnecessary ribbons on an already wrapped package, they just make it take longer to get to the good stuff.

The battles ARE the good stuff and if you enjoy Pacific Rim solely for the action, scope, spectacle, and nostalgia (remember Ishiro Honda’s 1954 Godzilla?) you won’t be disappointed.  It’s only when the subplots interrupt the epic destructive ballet of mecha vs. monster that the wind dies down.  3-D effects make the large scope seem even larger and if they aren’t really crucial, at least they don’t get in the way.

There are no extremely huge stars here so as not to steal the thunder from the extremely huge pugilists, but Idris Alba does lend credence to his leadership role as gravitas embodied. Ron Perlman delivers a dose of humorous danger like it’s simply second nature for him.  Charlie Day is wacky, but not necessarily funny as a rogue scientist.  Charlie Hunnam, the actual lead in the film, is adequate though uninspiring.

Pacific Rim is a child/teen/young adult robot/monster adventure that will appeal to some, even many sectors of the movie-going public.  It depends on what you want to take away from it.  Visuals? Yep. Action?  Yep. Human interaction? Nope.

Perching on a rim, after all, is difficult; you either fall into the drink thrashing madly or onto the dry earth dodging disaster.  The experience depends largely on where you land.

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