His back catalogue renowned for outlandish creatures and fantastical backdrops, Guillermo Del Toro has slowly worked his ways into the hearts of many a filmgoer with his unorthodox auteur style of filmmaking. Merely dipping his toes into the blockbuster ‘waters’ with his ‘Hellboy’ double header, ‘Pacific Rim’s tagline could not be more fitting after the former’s collective lack of worldwide success and this Summer already serving its fair share of casualties. ‘Go big, or go extinct’. With the promise of an old school meets new school smackdown for the ages dominating its early footage, does Del Toro’s attempt at a big budget B movie prove a worthy gamble by Warner Bros/Legendary?
Condensing the fierce backstory between the two formidable forces at the centre of its narrative into a compelling opening salvo of exposition, proceedings are soon anchored by our ‘unpredictable’ hero Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam). Years on, he still bears the mental and emotional scars after an terrible error of judgement whilst combatting with the monstrous Kaiju. Despite such a failing, it doesn’t take long for the former Jaeger pilot to be prompted back into action.
Weighed down by the threat of world leaders pouring scorn on the Jaeger project after such heavy investment and the heightened threat of the Kaiju teasing the apocalypse , Idris Elba’s tough talking ‘leader’ Stacker Pentecost hunts down Raleigh to lead the charge. Eager to find an appropriate co-pilot whose compatible life experiences prove crucial to the functionality of their futuristic creations, Raleigh is soon paired with female rookie Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi).
Displaying a greater sense of subtlety and a steadily beating heart missing from many of its blockbusting competition, ‘Pacific Rim’ is far from the Transformers-esque knock off it has been proclaimed to be. Comparisons with such fare are inevitable with its grandiosely destructive set-pieces, but the key difference here is that Del Toro doesn’t short-change the human element of the story with Hunnam’s straight talking Raleigh and Elba’s rousing turn the standouts. Accents may waver in their authenticity, but not our attention as the mechanics behind the film’s sophisticated weaponry aid its attempts to emotionally connect with a dread-filled flashback involving Mako Mori’s younger self, a stunning example.
Not one to rein in his unique vision, Del Toro’s technically faultless nods to the ‘monster films’ of old with its impressive design and notable displays of abjection, deftly compliment the technological advancements of our saviours, whilst all encased with an occasionally overwhelming sense of eccentricity and enthusiasm of its world. The film even finding room for a duo of characters to be a clear homage to the notion of the ‘mad scientist’ and their fascination with creatures (Burn Gorman’s Gottlieb and Charlie Day’s Newton Geiszler respectively). Making the most of its generous budget, the crunching and well captured impact of its wondrous action is only accentuated by the film’s gorgeous visual aesthetic.
Its script may not brim with freshness and the characterisation at times clunky, but the director’s clear fondness for the genre shines through. ‘Pacific Rim’ is both a spectacular, fun-filled ‘battle royale with cheese’ that will potentially leave you feeling 12 years old again and an affectionate love letter to the B-movie.
Arguably THE blockbuster of the summer.