There’s a rather infamous Guillermo del Toro quote from about three years ago when Scott Pilgrim vs. The World came out. That quote was, “Anyone that didn’t see this is a motherfucker.” He even signed a fan’s blu ray with that.
That’s generally how I feel about anyone who picked other films to watch this past weekend besides Pacific Rim. Because it probably was the most fun I’ve had at the movies since Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Yes, it was even more fun than Cabin in the Woods.
Some SPOILERS exist below the picture, but I’ll try to keep them to a minimum. I really do want to encourage people to see this film since it’s pretty much the best summer blockbuster to come out in a while.
When Pacific Rim opens, we’re right on board the exposition train. The first ten minutes or so of the film get the basics of this universe out of the way. The kaiju, the Jaeger program and how they are viewed, and our introduction to Marshall Stacker Pentecost (played by Idris Elba) and Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam), who are two of our three perspective characters. This part could have been boring or rushed, but the way its played off by showing the hero worship of the Pan Pacific Defense Corps and then quickly contrasting it with the new reality of the ever evolving kaiju, we come to a better understanding of the drastic shift five years later.
The intro we’re given for the film also gives us an intro the beautiful balance this film has: it manages to be cerebral and emotional while still giving plenty of the robot/monster beat ’em up that we were promised. del Toro created this wonderfully lush universe with strong, interesting characters. I felt more drawn in and intrigued in this universe than I do for most TV shows, and I was only there for two hours and eleven minutes.
After the intro, the film splits off into two plots that weave with each other and come together in the end. The main plot is Raleigh’s return to piloting the Jaeger Gipsy Danger five years after the death of his brother and co-pilot Yancy. Co-pilots are very important in the world of Pacific Rim since the neural load for piloting a jaeger is too much for one person to handle for very long. Two hemispheres of the brain. Two pilots sharing memories and thoughts in space known as the Drift. That’s how it works. However, each pilot team has to be compatible with each other in order for it to work. This leads to a lot of sibling teams (such as the Wei Tang triplets of the Crimson Typhoon), father and son (Chuck and Herc Hansen of Striker Eureka), and possible lovers (Aleksis and Sasha Kaidanovsky of Cherno Alpha).
This is where the relationship of Raleigh and his new co-pilot Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) becomes super interesting. It is very obvious from the moment they meet that there’s a connection between the two that makes them drift compatible. It could have been so easy for them to become lovers in some point of the film. I kind of expected it due to how often that comes true. But no, it was left perfectly open ended and that made so happy. Could they become lovers? Maybe. Could they just be best friends who just found each other? Perhaps. And that was awesome because platonic male/female friendships are so rare in film. Usually, that connection you feel meeting someone for the first time is often written off as sexual or romantic in films. It’s refreshing to see that two people can be close without making out at the end.
Of course, her relationship with Raleigh is the start of a mile long essay I could write about Mako Mori. If anyone tells me she wasn’t strong, I want to ask if we watched the same film. Mako was smart, skilled, and a pure natural at piloting. However, she was ruled by emotions for better or worse and mixed in with her lack of experience, it made her vulnerable and human. Mixed in with the respect and love she has for her commanding officer and father figure, it made her feel less like a “strong woman” and more like an actual complicated human. There’s a great Tumblr post by MadLori about writing interesting women vs. strong women that sums up how I feel about Mako Mori. Would have I liked to have seen more women in this film? Oh hell yes. But having a female character that’s complicated and interesting instead of being just “strong” is a good start for me.
Then, of course, there’s the magnificent and extremely complicated Marshall Stacker Pentecost. Gods bless Idris Elba. Gods bless him for making Stacker be able to walk in a room and demand attention and respect. Gods bless him for being cool under pressure, but still vulnerable enough for us to see that Mako is his heart and that like any good father has a hard time letting his little girl go. And gods bless him for making that “Canceling the Apocalypse” speech the coolest thing ever instead of cheesy as hell. Because it could have been, but it wasn’t. And bless the casting directors for picking him instead of Tom Cruise for the part.
The second plot of the film deals with the science division of the PPDC trying to find a way to end the Kaiju attacks. Mostly with Charlie Day’s hysterical turn as Dr. Newton Geizler. Seriously. With a manic energy that reminded me of Jeff Goldblum, Doc Brown, and all four Ghostbusters, Newt was a legitimately funny character with the genius chops to prove why he was working for the PPDC in the first place. Mixed in with his delightfully antagonistic relationship with fellow scientist Herman Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) and his journey to find the mysterious and eccentric black market dealer Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman), it was fair to say that Newt stole the show. Well, Chau did a little as well, but Newt took it right back. I would see a whole movie of Day and Perlman being exasperated by each other in their own unique ways.
But with all this talk of characters, you’re probably wondering if I forgot about the robots punching the giant sea monsters. The answer is no, I didn’t. Every fight scene in this film is a giant love letter to giant monster films and giant robot anime. I had a big, doofy smile on my face watching the penultimate fight between Gipsy Danger and Otachi in Hong Kong and was on the edge of my seat in the finale, waiting to see if the humans would come out on top. If the whole film really had just been these giant robots punching vicious inter-dimensional undersea lizards to death, I still would have been satisfied with the film.
With a diverse cast (again, props to del Toro for putting the “Pan” in “Pan Pacific Defense Corps” and not making everyone white americans), amazingly done fight scenes, and a masterfully told story with great characters, Pacific Rim will probably be the most amount of fun you’ll have at the movies for the next few years. I left the theater feeling like a kid in a theme park wanting to go on the ride again. I want all the stories about this universe, but I mostly just want to watch it again.
Though, I will admit, after a week of playing Portal and Portal 2 in my downtime, I did expect the Jaeger AI to be a bit more passive aggressive. Or at least have a slow clap processor.