Consider this a fair warning: Director Guillermo del Toro's monsters vs. robots fantasy "Pacific Rim" is big and loud, especially if you catch in the must-see IMAX format. The great thing is, despite all of the crash-boom-bang that rattles on throughout the film, it's hardly annoying. In fact, "Pacific Rim" is hugely entertaining and easily one of the best popcorn movies of the summer.
True, while the film is bound to draw comparisons to "Transformers," "Godzilla" and "Cloverfield," the story contained within this well-oiled machine manages to be original, boasting a refreshing concept in an age of remakes, reboots, sequels and prequels.
"Sons of Anarchy" star Charlie Hunnam stars as Raleigh Becket, a once-prominent co-pilot of a Jaeger, a 25-story-high robot commanded by two people to fight the Kaiju -- a race of monolithic monsters that emerge from beneath Earth's seas. Once Raleigh and his fellow Jaeger pilots became rock stars by defeating the initial onslaught of the Kaiju, a hint of arrogance sets in, and a fatal mistake by Raleigh during a battle alters his life forever.
Five years a drifter, Raleigh is called upon once again by the human resistance to pilot a Jaeger when it becomes clear that the Kaiju are on the cusp of destroying all of Earth's inhabitants. Raleigh finds a compatible pilot for his rig with Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), but her mentor and superior Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) has reservations because, like her co-pilot, Mako has suffered a past traumatic experience that might affect abilities to think clearly in battle.
See my review of the film on "KARE 11 News at 11" with Diana Pierce below.
One of the most creative filmmakers working today, del Toro, along with co-writer Travis Beacham ("Clash of the Titans") have crafted a smart, funny and explosive story with "Pacific Rim" that doesn't take itself too seriously. It's a popcorn film drenched with extra butter and del Toro knows it, and he throws in every possibly effect he can get as the adversaries thrash and crash their way through every standing land structure and ocean vessel.
That's not to say del Toro and Beacham didn't use their brains, sometimes quite literally. To operate a Jaeger, one pilot uses the right hemisphere of their brain while the other uses the left, to think as one to operate the robot with the head of the gigantic structure. The concept becomes all the more fascinating as we see the pilots at work in full-scale set, since del Toro opted for the realism over the use of digital effects for the critical scenes.
As far as digital renderings are concerned, the Jaegers -- there are four of them that gather throughout the world -- are awe-inspiring. The Kaiju are big, scary and gnarly as expected, and have the ability to attack with sheer brute force or through the acid they spew from their bodies. Think of Godzilla on steroids, and you have a Kaiju, a group of movie monsters that are anything but ordinary.
With so much crashing going on, "Pacific Rim" no doubt suffers from sensory overload, and the details of how the resistance finds the key to defeating the Kaiju are lost in clutter near the conclusion. Still, it's hard to argue that that "Pacific Rim" is a fanboy fantasy first, coming from the self-admitted fanboy from del Toro. True, it doesn't have the masterful subtlety of del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth" or the whimsical humor of the "Hellboy" films, but for what it is, "Pacific Rim" works wonderfully.
While the tone is different from his previous films, del Toro was clearly intent on maintain the strengths of his characters. Carrying a huge load on his shoulders, a new Hollywood leading man has been born with the charismatic Hunnam; and Kikuchi, an Oscar nominee for the drama "Babel," brings depth and feeling to a character damaged by an incident with a Kaiju as a child. Idris Elba also commands the screen as the authoritarian Pentecost, who is harboring a secret; and Charlie Day and Burn Gorman are a hoot as a pair of quibbling scientists who sift through the remains of the Kaiju trying to find a weakness in the creatures for the resistance to exploit.
"Pacific Rim" is made complete, though, with a memorable supporting turn by del Toro movie veteran Ron "Hellboy" Perlman, who brings an entertaining swagger to Hannibal Chau, a dealer of valuable Kaiju remains on the black market.
If you like big surprises, "Pacific Rim" has plenty of them -- just make sure to stick around for the end credits. It gives an extra kick to a summer movie that's going to have some big legs.
"Pacific Rim," rated PG-13, 3 stars out of four.
See the trailer for "Pacific Rim" below.
What other critics are saying …
Chris Hewitt of the Pioneer Press gives the film 3 stars, saying "unlike many enormomovies in which one special effect fights another special effect, 'Pacific Rim' never loses sight of the human dimension.'
Colin Covert of the Star Tribune also gives the "Pacific Rim" 3 stars, praising del Toro while saying "every frame is packed to bursting with images that delight the eye and tickle the mind."
Bring Me The News film critic Tim Lammers is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he also reviews films on “KARE 11 News at 11.” As a feature writer, Tim has interviewed well over 1,000 major actors and filmmakers throughout his career and his work is syndicated nationwide.