Dear Hulk and The Abomination: That showdown in Manhattan? Yeah, that was kind like children in a sandbox, sorry.
Since the first trailer of "Pacific Rim" months ago, co-writer/director Guillermo del Toro promised us dizzying scale and grandeur, and he’s delivered.
So taken was I with it that I spent the interim praying that “Pacific Rim” wouldn’t suck; such would be a disappointment on the scale of its creatures, and my fingers stayed crossed to the point of white-knuckling. While the scale, creativity, and framing promised all one could hope, the concept in general could easily amount to nothing more than a “Transformers”-retread merchandise delivery system.
Here we find that an undersea fissure has opened an interdimensional portal allowing a hostile off-planet force access to Earth, and the valiant, creative fighting force developed in response. That’s pretty much it. Alien invasion, scrambling for solutions, split-second decisions, courage, and big – BIG - fights.
Does “Pacific Rim” reach its own lofty heights and exceed all expectations? Nah. The characters were largely overdrawn, as though crafted by a novice writer remembering all the techniques learned in class, such as using distinguishing features to give depth, which ended up as a mad scientist and an Elvis wannabe; in the absence of actual characterization, it simply landed as gimmick. The cast did well with the too-much or too-little they were offered, but it wasn’t anyone’s best work.
Exceptions to this would be Idris Elba, who by his sheer force of personality infused his team leader with power and passion, and Rinko Kikuchi, who very wisely adds absolutely nothing to her woefully two-dimensional pilot and instead opts for perfection in two, and thereby creates the illusion of three.
But does “Pacific Rim” reach its own lofty heights and exceed all mission-critical expectations? Most definitely. And it’s even completely worthy of demanding some extra jingle for 3D/IMAX.
It was clear that “Pacific Rim” was going to succeed or fail based on del Toro’s framing (I also mentioned the impact of framing just recently with “Man of Steel,” which because of its characterizations did earn the five stars “Pacific Rim” just missed). Show us magnificent scale, elegant technology, intelligent creature design, and plenty of opportunity actually to see it all clearly in operation, and you have a winner, even with plot or character weakness. But be simple, ponderous, or oblique in any of the above, and you’ll sink like the 2500-ton figures you failed. But Guillermo del Toro ~ excuse me, “Visionary Director Guillermo del Toro” ~ lives up to his moniker.
These creatures are real bad boys. Intelligent, mission-driven, and adaptive, these ain’t no emotionally unhinged Gamma-ray mutants (not that there’s anything wrong with those). These guys have technology, they have a plan, they learn, and ~ well, I won’t spoil it... So intriguing are they, in fact, that within fifteen minutes I actually thought, “Wow! I wonder what their culture is like” ~ and to my great surprise, we actually got to see some of it. They're characteristics, the way the operate, they way humanity responds, all of it is fresh and interesting.
Also creative are the intriguing weapons devised to combat them: equally gargantuan yet surprisingly agile, they face down the invaders with anything but lumbering metal-muscle-bound slogging. Operated by two tandem pilots, they actually reflect the movement of humans rather than robots, and the artistic rendering gives them great life and personality. Overall, the artistry, effects, and action sequencing were quite sensational.
The other sensation was the short sequence involving 9-year-old Mana Ashida. Playing Kikuchi as a youngster, she delivers with remarkable expressiveness, particularly when one bears in mind that the chaos surrounding her didn’t exist during filming. She’s one to follow seriously, as in Mae Whitman-Dakota Fanning-Tina Majorino seriously. Time to fire up the queue…
People who don’t like “Pacific Rim” will find a lot to gripe about from beginning to end. But if you like intensity, creativity, beauty, and originality, and can forgive its having only good characters instead of great, then you’ll be well pleased indeed. See it on the biggest screen you can possibly arrange.
Story: When a subsea interdimensional rift permits gargantuan hostile aliens to attempt a planetary takeover, humanity unites in creating a special resistance force in a desperate hope of stopping them.
Genre: Sci-fi, action/adventure
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Running time: 131 minutes
Official site: http://pacificrimmovie.warnerbros.com/
Houston release date: July 12, 2013
Tickets: Check Fandango.com or your local listings
Screened Jul 9 2013 at the Edwards Marq*E theater in Houston TX