“Pacific Rim” is not really a Monsters versus Robots movie; it’s a Kaiju versus Jaeger movie.
Let me explain exactly what that means. It’s more about the people inside the transformer-esque robots than the bots themselves.
Nor are these your average monsters; these are monsters hand-crafted by director Guillermo del Toro, certified monster maven and monster movie expert.
Maybe hand-crafted is the wrong word, however, for they’re CGI manifestations, yet stemming directly from the mind of del Toro onto the silver screen these Kaiju (Japanese for monster) feel as alive and real as the beings during del Toro’s masterpiece “Pan’s Labyrinth.”
Now the Jaegers (German for hunter) are the things with which planet earth as a whole decides to fight the Kaiju after they appear from, as the film’s voiceover exposition states, from a portal in-between dimensions that’s somewhere in the Pacific Ocean near Antarctica.
What makes the Jaegers such an interesting creation is how they are operated. The machines are not just hooked to the body to replicate its movements; a Jaeger connects to each operator’s mind during something called a drift. (It’s too much mental stain for just one human being.) And the coolest thing about the drift, or possibly the most terrifying, is that it completely links the two minds together, meaning each person has total access to the other person: thoughts, dreams, visions, memories, et al.
“Pacific Rim” picks up the pace after a montage exposition nearly delivers an entire feature film in mere minutes about the war between the Kaiju and Jaegers over its first few years.
Only real things of note are that the film’s protagonist Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) lost his brother Yancy (Diego Klattenoff) while they were operating a Jaeger amidst a fight with a Kaiju, making him walk away from the Jaeger program for five years, and the fact that the world has decided to stop funding the Jaeger program for a much different idea, to build walls around sea-side cities to keep the Kaiju out.
The defunding of the Jaegers puts their cause underground. As leader of the program throughout, Marshal Stacker (Idris Elba) puts it the best after he gets Raleigh back involved, “We were an army; now we’re a resistance.” Saying that doesn’t exactly put Raleigh’s fears at ease; it just puts them into perspective.
A good thing, though, is that Raleigh’s old ride, a Jaeger called Gipsy Danger, is back up and running, but a.) it’s an antique, and b.) it’s only one of four remaining to take on an indeterminate amount of Kaiju.
The only thing left to do is find a co-pilot for Raleigh and get to work. Things go fairly predictable from here. The person assigned to find his partner, Mako (Rinko Kikuchi of “Babel” fame), eventually becomes just that, but once all the colors are shaded in, Mako’s journey is more awe-inspiring than foreseen frustration.
Plot points follow traditional action epics, yet the battles that pit Jaegers against Kaiju don’t disappoint; they’re electric.
“Pacific Rim” is also the only film converted into 3D that I’ve ever liked because del Toro only had the CGI images transferred—and those are mostly the fight sequences involving the Jaegers and the Kaiju. When it’s not, it’s used as the addition of something computer generated enters the live-action imagery. Del Toro eliminates the sloppy stretch effect that has plagued directors who have chosen to alter live-action shots and images in the editing room instead of the proper way, shooting said occurrences with a three-dimensional camera.
Other things done right are the casting of Charlie Day as a scientist—not just that, but a doctor even—helping the human resistance, who’s obsessed over everything Kaiju, and Ron Perlman as a black market dealer of Kaiju remains for any and all intents and purposes out to make as much dough as he can on the world’s current crisis.
After seeing Guillermo del Toro return to the director’s chair after serving as a producer for the last few years on horror flicks varying in validity, from the likes of “Mama” (okay but flawed) to “Splice” (aging like fine wine), an accomplishment like “Pacific Rim” leaves me with only one remaining question. When do we get “Hellboy 3”?