In the year 2013, a rift between two tectonic plates in the Pacific Ocean opens up and allows huge alien monsters, known as Kaiju, to come into our world to run amok. After a few attacks, the powers that be band together to develop a defense system and produce the Jaegers, giant robot warriors that are controlled by two elite soldiers. The Jaegers are extremely effective but still the onslaught continues, pushing us to the brink of destruction. In a last ditch effort, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) assembles a motley crew of soldiers, including veteran Jaeger pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and inexperienced but gifted rookie Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), to take the fight to the Kaijus and put an end to the invasions once and for all.
If the idea of giant alien monsters fighting giant, armored robots sounds stupid to you, then you are right…except that it’s also awesome. There is almost no pretense involved with Pacific Rim which helps make it such an enjoyable, exciting thrill ride. This is a summer blockbuster in its purest form, a film that’s entire purpose is to entertain and it rings that bell with authority over and over again. It’s a ridiculous, somewhat dumb premise but the demonstration of skill in producing that premise is spectacular. Essentially, Pacific Rim knows exactly what it is, everyone involved knows exactly what it is, and it goes about its business within that role with near flawless execution. The movie is a combination of Transformers, Independence Day, Godzilla, Top Gun, and probably a number of other popcorn flicks and yet it feels like a glorious hybrid of those films rather than a knock-off of any one of them in particular. In a way, Pacific Rim plays as Guillermo Del Toro’s homage to summer blockbusters and that is awesome.
As with any giant alien monsters versus giant robots movie, there are plenty of flaws within Pacific Rim. The acting is, at best, mediocre and at worst cringe-inducing, the plot requires an incredible amount of suspension of reality, and there are moments that feel a bit like someone was going through a checklist of every ingredient required in a standard summer blockbuster. But the longer you stay within the world of Pacific Rim, the more the movie wins you over and the finished product is much greater than the sum of its parts. Some of the visuals contained within are absolutely stunning and I suspect this film will continue to stand out on that front for years to come. You can’t call this a particularly smart film but I do think Del Toro deserves great appreciation for creating such a lively, insanely fun movie that displays far more intelligence than a premise like this really deserves. Grade: A- (Rated PG-13 for cartoonish violence and some language)