Pacific Rim Review – Decidedly Not Transformers

pacific-rim-review-01
Not New York.

IzzieBytes Rating: 4/5, A-
Characters: 3/5
Story: 4/5
Acting: 3.5/5
Effects: 5/5
Music: 4/5

Having kicked things off with Oblivion back in April, this summer’s blockbuster-hopefuls list has had a decidedly Sci-Fi flare, which admittedly has me spending far more on tickets than I have in several years.

The downside, however, is that the genre isn’t actually doing too well in the grand scheme of things. While we’re being treated to stunning visuals and fantastic fantasy futures, so many of the stories have fallen sadly short of capturing that “it” factor, with a handful bombing completely (looking at you, After Earth).

Pacific Rim, while arguably the best of the big Sci-Fi films I’ve seen so far, still falls short on a few levels. It was extremely enjoyable, don’t get me wrong. But I can see where my position as a nerd nerd of multiple passions, mecha anime having been one of them, contributes greatly to that. I enjoyed seeing it twice – though I doubt I could sit through it at the theatre another time.

Whether intentionally or not, the movie pays a great homage to both some of the most iconic mecha anime in history as well as classic old-school kaiju films from Japan. There were unmistakable undertones of Evangelion, Gundam, and Godzilla scattered everywhere. There are some fans who feel “homage” crosses over into “total rip-off” territory but I whole-heartedly beg to differ – there is a lot of uniqueness in the film that has a distinct Del Toro flavor that keeps it from being a clone.

That said, SO much is great about this movie. The graphics were well beyond par with what we’ve come to expect from big-budget sci-fi these days. Not surprising coming from the  crew behind Transformers. The colors are vibrant and high-contrast, giving it a sort of animated feel, with most of the action taking place at night to add to the visual drama. There’s no lack of action as the movie is downright riddled with explosive, barge-flinging, car-crushing, building obliterating chaos. If you like destruction on a mass scale, you won’t be disappointed.

Russia's answer to aliens (add more engines)
Russia’s answer to aliens (add more engines)

Pacific Rim also has a rather unique international appeal that is often lacking in modern “welp, the world’s about to end” action flicks. Although the main character is distinctly American, the majority of the story takes place in Hong Kong and the heroes at least start out with a diverse group of, well.. pacific rim nations (the U.S., Russia, China, and Australia). The most we see of America is in the prologue – San Francisco is the first city to get hit at the start of the Kaiju invasion (praise the skies, it’s not freaking New York for once) and the first big fight takes place way off the coast of Alaska. From then on out, it’s all China.

Despite the potential here, though, my first complaint would be that the cast’s racial diversity still falls a little short. For being in Hong Kong, there are very few chinese characters of note – and those who exist hardly speak, if at all. Idris Elba and Rinko Kikuchi help round out the otherwise “white-male dominated cast” but I think there was a lot of lost opportunity here. But, on that note, can we get two thumbs up on a Japanese actress playing a Japanese character? (Woot!)

My second big complaint would be that the main personalities for the most part are a little flat. Raleigh is actually completely forgettable as a lead, though easy on the eyes. The young Aussie is nothing but an annoying one-dimensional walking trope. Older Aussie is a bit more likable, but fails to be much more dynamic.

Stacker and Mako start to get more intriguing, the later of whom arguably has the most development of the entire cast. And while Mako is adorably charming, to find the gems who really shine you have to look to the b-story and supporting cast – the two scientists Gottlieb and Newton, and blackmarket Kaiju-bits dealer Hannibal Chau are easily the most memorable and with the most entertaining interactions of the lot.

My final grief is the lack of female rep. The movie sadly fails the Bechdel test by a long shot. While both women who actually got some screen time were badass, the Russian pilot didn’t get nearly enough lines / screen time. They could have done way better here.

Pacific Rim Review - Space
Giant robots vs giant aliens. Why not in space, too?

Finally, yes, there is some serious cheese-factor but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In my opinion it adds to its charm. The film doesn’t take itself too seriously but unfortunately many movie-goers probably went into this expecting something a bit darker and edgier (to be fair, it was very much marketed as such. Remember, kids, trailers always lie).  It has its heart-warming and dramatic bits – Mako’s flashback comes to mind – but overall it’s supposed to be a fun, action-packed movie about Giant Robots kicking the daylight of Giant Monsters from another dimension (and vice versa).

All in all even with its  faults, Pacific Rim is a wonderfully enjoyable film that I think everyone can enjoy. Sci-fi fans and other geeks may find it a little more to their taste, but with the right mindset (read: don’t expect Transformers), fun can be had by all.

FOR MY FAMILY!!

  • Thierry D.W.

    “Praise the skies, it’s not freaking New York for once!”

    Just that one line, which definitely made me chuckle, made me reconsider this movie really. I know, I don’t need much, but then again, I had already made up my mind about this movie and classified it as the next ‘Godzilla vs Transformers’ -blockbuster. So basically, your review (which was so well written that it didn’t spoil anything in the process) gave this one another chance. I’m not going to go so far as to say I’ll have high hopes now, but it’ll be just enough to get me back in those soft seats for another big screen-experience.
    Thanks for writing this review & keep ‘m coming! 😉

    • izziebot

      I’m glad you’re reconsidering it! To be sure, it’s definitely a pretty straight forward movie that doesn’t make you think too much (though if you want to, there’s lots of stuff about the Kaiju that you might pick up on!) but it’s very fun. I think you’d enjoy it, especially with a buddy.

      Thanks so much for reading! I’ll definitely aim to doing more around here, ahaha. <3

      • You know, you don’t have to leave your reviews here? I’m a member on this site especially made for ‘m. It’s one huge databank for movies really, so if you’re a bit into movies (like me) you’ll love this http://letterboxd.com

        Come say hi! 😉

        Hug, me