by M. Faust
There was a time when I would have considered Pacific Rim the greatest movie ever made.
But then I turned 12.
Word is that the distributor is desperately trying to battle the public perception that their movie is a Transformers knockoff. I’m not sure why that should worry them, given how many zillion dollars those movies have made. And it’s hardly inaccurate: The only difference is that these giant robots battle not other giant robots but giant monsters. Kaiju, to be precise, which is what they have been called by the Japanese who invented them for years. You know lots of kaiju—Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, Gamera, all those Toho favorites. For several generations, the best thing about Thanksgiving was gluing oneself to the TV the next day for the Japanese monster movie marathon that was a staple on New York’s WOR-TV.
You might call Pacific Rim a $200 million version of Ultraman, the half-hour Japanese TV show that channel 29 used to run every afternoon, featuring the most gloriously tacky kaiju in monster history. (My favorite was a giant bat that walked on the tips of its wings, played by two guys in rubber suits holding the bat’s head in between them.) But when you take the concept and spend millions of dollars on digital effects to bring it to life, you lose all the fun that comes from watching stuntmen in rubber suits doing slow-motion kung fu on miniature cityscapes.
Pacific Rim was directed by Guillermo del Toro, who in the past has shown a knack for horror with a social or political edge (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone). Don’t expect any of that here. This is pure fanboy stuff, almost wholly devoid of plot. Due to sound problems at the preview screening I saw much of the explanatory narration was inaudible. But it wouldn’t have made much difference if the dialogue had been in Urdu. With no stars to speak of—the lead is Charlie Hunnam, from FX’s Hamlet-on-a-motorcycle series Sons of Anarchy—there’s nothing to distract you from endless robot vs monster bashing. The film opens with a kaiju demolishing a bridge in a scene that once would have been the climax of a monster movie. But while this may hook the impatient, del Toro gives us everything he has in the first film’s 10 minutes, and after that all he can do is repeat himself, over and over again.
It’s better than Transformers 2 and 3, but not as good as the first, which actually had characters and a plot. Call me a traditionalist.
Watch the trailer for Pacific Rim
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