A few months ago, I was looking forward to Summer 2013's offerings at the cinema. There were quite a few summer blockbusters that caught my attention rather quickly. It's already July, yet none of the studios have released anything memorable. Despite the massive budgets, this year's summer blockbusters have been a letdown. However, I have been looking forward to Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim for quite some time. He's been in the producer's chair for a few projects, but he truly belongs in the director's seat. The majority of the trailers released for his newest film looked like a much better version of the Transformers franchise. While there are most certainly big CG-robots fighting around the destruction of entire cities, del Toro has made a wonderful return by making what will most likely be considered the best summer blockbuster of the year. Welcome back, sir!
Humankind was changed forever after an enormous sea creature came from underneath the Pacific Ocean and killed a large number of people. This continued to happen all around the world, which is when every country put their differences aside in order to save the planet. The solution was creating similarly sized robots with advanced weaponry in order to kill these creatures from the sea. Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) is a former pilot who is asked to return in order to fight once again. He's soon paired with a trainee to drive a seemingly obsolete model in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.
Pacific Rim starts by explaining some terminology and whatnot before it kicks into gear. No time is wasted, since we're quickly introduced to a taste of the exciting action sequences that are to come. This is when the paper-thin plot is introduced. There are a few attempts made for us to connect with the protagonists. However, they're all pretty bland and one-dimensional, but this clearly isn't the movie's purpose. The backstories work, but I never found myself caring very much about anybody in particular. Screenwriters Travis Beacham and Guillermo del Toro keep their progressions fluid, but it isn't very convincing. The filmmakers understand what this flick is, and they know exactly what experience moviegoers want to have. These characters could have easily tested our patience, but they remain bearable since this isn't the focal point. The focus is maintained where it should be: big robots fighting monstrous sea creatures.
The majority of the film discusses the mythology of the monsters rising from the ocean. Similar to the sea life we have in reality, there's so much that isn't known about them. When they aren't fighting robots, we're learning about them with Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day). It's probably for the best, since these monsters are clearly the reason why audiences will be paying to see this on the big screen. Beacham and del Toro's dialogue is incredibly corny, which isn't much of a problem. It makes countless attempts to be funny, and most of it feels forced. The jokes didn't get more than a couple chuckles out of me, but it didn't affect my final score very much. This summer blockbuster clearly tries to appeal to its younger audiences with its humor, while it provides older viewers with the intense action that they will surely be craving. The few gags that work have to do with the parallelism of the loud action and the quiet subtleties during combat. These moments stick out in the best way possible.
The remainder of the running time is filled with action sequences that will take you back to the wild imaginations we all had as children. When it comes to mindless action, Guillermo del Toro hit the nail on the head. The script issues are irrelevant after factoring in the amount of fun there is to be had. Even though the film keeps its focus on Raleigh's robot, there are times when all of the remaining fighters band together. Each machine has a unique appearance and its own choice of weapon, making it interesting to see how each one fights. Whether they're using huge weaponry or just throwing punches, every action scene had me on the edge of my seat. It has been quite some time since an action flick has kept my eyes glued to the screen in this way. Some of it is slightly repetitive, but it never gets boring.
Writer/director Guillermo del Toro's cast is exactly what one would expect. None of the performances are groundbreaking, but this material guarantees what audiences will expect. Charlie Hunnam provides the eye candy for the women. Fortunately, he's believable enough in this role. Idris Elba plays Stacker Pentecost and he fits this character like a glove. Rinko Kikuchi works well with Hunnam, but her performance is quite forgettable. Charlie Day tries to provide as much humor as he can in the role of Dr. Newton Geiszler, but he doesn't truly succeed. He manages to make the character somewhat likable, but he's irritating for the majority of his screen time. Fortunately, the cast doesn't take the material seriously, making it fun for everybody involved.
I rarely pay the extra money to see movies in IMAX, much less IMAX 3D. However, Pacific Rim is entirely worth seeing on the bigger screen. These are some of the best visuals you'll see at the cinema this year. The CGI is absolutely impeccable, as the level of detail is unbelievable. There isn't a single moment where you won't be entirely convinced of the scenery and the players within. It's clear that the filmmakers have utilized their budget very well through each of the battles between the robots and the monsters. Every frame is enhanced when seeing it on the IMAX screen. While the 3D isn't entirely necessary, it does add a decent amount of depth. Those who enjoy the pop-up book effect that some 3D is known for will be disappointed. This format focuses on providing levels of depth. The additional reason to see this in an IMAX theater is the audio. Pacific Rim has an impressive audio track that will surely have every seat in the auditorium shaking with bass.
Some moviegoers will complain about the film's tacky dialogue and bland characters. My answer to them is, so what? The screenplay has its flaws, but this isn't supposed to be a well-crafted piece of cinema. It's a summer blockbuster, and happens to be one of the only ones worth seeing this year. This is the most fun I've had at the movie theater in quite some time. Guillermo del Toro knew what audiences would crave from this movie, and he delivered. If the thought of huge robots fighting enormous sea creatures excites you, then this is the movie for you. However, if you're expecting more story than action, you'll be disappointed. Pacific Rim has substantial flaws, but it ultimately delivers exactly what it promises. Highly recommended!