Pacific Rim (Guillermo del Toro, 2013)

Partially inspired by Godzilla-like Kaiju films of years past, the much-hyped Pacific Rim spins its own web of mildly thought-provoking, pre-apocalyptic mayhem as we humans rely on “Jaegers” to quell the alien menace deep below the Pacific Ocean. A grief-stricken if exceedingly gifted former pilot, Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) is called in to commandeer one of few remaining Jaegers in an eventual, moreover final attempt to save mankind from literal extinction. With the aid of admirable higher-ups, veterans and aspiring soon-to-be co-pilots, Raleigh and humanity’s desperate struggle for survival grows more dire by the hour as an invariable full-blown Kaiju invasion looms threateningly on the horizon.

Mr. del Toro, in my opinion, is very capable of employing his singular sense of conceptual and visceral creativity to continual gain. When the man remains a key contributor to a particular project’s inception, fantastical engagement is a high priority as occasional narrative inanity is rendered unimportant. In the case of Pacific Rim, giddiness brought on by an undeniably impressive marketing campaign was almost unbearable, the promise of synchronous, tag team operated megaton robots trashing an aquatic alien menace instilling hope in all blockbuster enthusiasts. In delivering in the areas we’d expect it to however, the film mostly but not entirely delivers.

For all intents and purposes, Beacham and del Toro’s script earnestly simulates this thoroughly desecrated wasteland of a planet, the defeated yet admirably resilient human race dedicating their lives to fending off the ever-evolving Kaiju. Focusing primarily on a dwindling number of Jaeger warfare specialists and their varying roles and backgrounds, only their actions, combat knowledge and theories remain the film’s worthwhile talking points. Listening to a military official named Stacker discipline a subordinate and spout Jaeger evolutionary knowledge? Hooray for competent world-building! Establishing base level motivations and soupy character-driven exposition? It’s necessary if sometimes cold, rigid and plain silly, even despite the sensationalist feelings the gorgeous, hard-hitting action set pieces evoke.

Well-intentioned emotional vapidity aside, this film is a literal sight for sore eyes – a very welcome departure from White House invasion thrillers and trite dystopian post-apocalyptic sci-fi. A so-called “thinking man’s blockbuster” – one benchmarked by del Toro’s thorough conviction in LUSTROUSLY illustrating our Kaiju-scorned hunk of rock laden with appealingly bombastic, moreover visually arresting super-sized combat between opposing factions. Engrossing as the logistics behind the Jaegers and human counterattack on the Kaiju are, absurdity is present but inevitable as tense thrills trump Pacific Rim‘s shortcomings. With more than serviceable performances aiding what’s sure to be considered the year’s best and best-looking film of its (well-invested) big budget type, this gem of a blockbuster is sure to strike a chord with casual and fervent admirers of actioners regardless of its sci-fi trappings.

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