In his recent review of This Is The End, Søren compared the comedy to 2011’s The Cabin in the Woods. These movies share characteristics that make them part of an exciting trend in Hollywood; films that exist as both satires and as superb examples of the genres they are satirizing.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim does for homage what The Cabin in the Woods and This Is The End did for satire. Its clear and effective reverence for the earnest action movies and Japanese monster flicks of the director’s childhood meshes perfectly with its existence as a brilliant action/monster film. The result is a cleverly self-aware and marvelously entertaining experience.
Unfortunately, Pacific Rim might be the latest victim of Hollywood mis-marketing. Based on its trailers, many might assume its closest contemporary is Michael Bay’s Transformers series. This is a regrettable connection, because the Transformers films reeked of tediousness and exploitation, while Pacific Rim takes careful steps to avoid these issues.
One such step is a lack of character development, which in this case is a positive asset that allows the film to feel quick despite its 132 minute run time. Del Toro is smart – he knows that his movie employs a cast of stock characters (the hero, the commander, the love interest, the comic relief), so he doesn’t waste the audience’s time pretending they are complex. The characters, while well-acted, are intentionally simple; their relationships, their motivations, and their purpose, are all very clear. But this movie is not about them. This movie is about giant robots fighting giant monsters.
And those battles are superb. The robots (called Jaegers) were constructed by the nations of the world to fight off the influx of alien monsters (called Kaiju) which periodically emerge from an undersea rift. Because the Jaegers were built in different parts of the earth, and because they are piloted by members of those nations, they fight in subtly stereotypical and exhilaratingly entertaining styles. The Chinese Jaeger does kung-fu, the Russian Jaeger is a brawler, the American is a rebel. And the monsters they are fighting live up to the levels of monster design one expects from del Toro, whose previous successes include the Hellboy franchise and Pan’s Labyrinth.
My favorite thing about the film, however, is that it is for kids. Despite its PG-13 rating, I would not hesitate to bring a child to see it. Transformers made the mistake of taking what should have been a movie for kids and stuffing it full of sex and violence. In Pacific Rim, there is no sexual content and the majority of the violence occurs between non-human entities. There is hardly any profanity. Del Toro even took measures to make sure a child seeing this movie doesn’t end up idolizing war by avoiding the use of military ranks. Instead, the unity of mankind remains the major theme throughout the film.
I would not hesitate to call this film masterful. Del Toro wastes no time and gives no apologies, and the result is not only an astounding film, but an important one. Pacific Rim is the first movie I have seen since my childhood that truly made me want to save the world.
Verdict: Movie Win