Pacific Rim Review – A Gigantic Delight

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Slight spoilers but nothing of any real consequence as this movie should NOT be spoiled – it must be seen.

There’s a nine year old boy in my soul that is jumping up and down, shouting with glee and cheering for joy.  The 30-something man is so happy that I was able to experience this movie and that all my fears were for naught and that everything that I could have hoped for out of this movie was basically realized.

Let me say that I am not exaggerating nor overstating the case that Pacific Rim, Guillermo Del Toro’s mecha vs. monster feature, is probably one of the best creature features you will have seen in the last 50-70 years.  This is coming from someone who’s probably seen just about every creature feature, even the crappy SyFy channel ones, that’s been released by the U.S. and most foreign countries produced over the last 75 years.  When I say that I love watching big monster movies, I say this with the conviction and knowledge that every fiber of my being has been devoted to watching and analyzing this genre since before I even knew that a computer or the internet existed.

When this movie ended, the audience in my theater erupted in applause and cheers.  This literally was the best movie I’ve seen this year.  I’m not an art-house movie guy, so the critic’s picks can go take a flying leap with their Flounder Fishing in the Nile movies and all of that.

Here’s the deal:

The planet has been invaded by 300+ foot, rampaging monsters called Kaiju, and humanity has rallied together to respond to this threat by creating 300+ foot mechas called Jaegers.  Each country has developed their own style of Jaeger, so you get an interesting look as to how each country has developed their individual Jaeger mechs in a manner that reflects the conditions/styles/traditions of their homeland.  Jaegers like Gypsy Danger, Striker Eureka and Crimson Typhoon are but a few Jaegers that take center stage.  However, the real stars are the pilots of the Jaegers and the story follows the life of Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam), Marshall (PPDC) Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) and the Pan Pacific Defense Corp (PPDC) – the last line of defense against a gargantuan threat.

The Kaiju, come through a rip in the dimension at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.  However, the attacks by the Kaiju have become more frequent and more powerful.  The PPDC is down to its last few Jaegers and it’s up to them to draw a line in the sand against the Kaiju, or humanity will be wiped off the face of the planet.  Can the PPDC stand against the power and ferocity of the Kaiju invaders?  Is humanity’s time as the dominant species on Earth over?  Only time and little bit of luck will tell.

What I found to be the most compelling in this story were the characters.  Raleigh is a hot shot Jaeger pilot that due to an unfortunate encounter with a Kaiju, is now trying to put his life back together and face his demons (literally) during humanity’s last stand.  Mako is the up-and-coming rookie pilot that while looks meek on the outside, is probably the one sleeping dragon you really don’t want to underestimate.  Then there’s Marshall Becket; the tough, no nonsense, authoritarian commander of the Jaeger program.  He has secrets and he has a plan.  One in which involves Raleigh and Mako, much to his chagrin.  There’s also a cameo by the beloved and crowd-pleasing, Ron Perlman.  Ron plays a character so off-the-wall, wild and fantastic character that it’ll easily be one of the most favorite cosplay costumes at any of the remaining 2013 cons and for years to come.

These characters weren’t one-dimensional and the story, while not complex, was NOT what I thought it was going to be.  In fact, it was actually a simple but interesting one that led you down paths and alleyways of a plot that was more intricate than I thought but not convoluted.  The stakes are high and you really do feel a sense of dread for the human race as the plot began to thicken and clues as to what was really going on began to take shape.  One of the key elements of the story centered on the technology that allows the pilots to maneuver the Jaegers – the Neural Handshake.  To sum it up quickly, moving a 100+ ton machine is very stressful on the brain of any one person, thus they use at least two people to operate a single Jaeger to compensate on the strain.  The Neural Handshake allows the pilots to act as one being by sharing and combining the minds of the pilots.  This in turn makes the in and out of Jaeger lives the most intimate experience ever achieved as they know each other’s thoughts as they are broadcast to each other constantly.  This key element is one that is used in clever ways during the film and takes a few turns that even I didn’t expect.

The only slight downside to the film was that I could have used some closed captioning with some of the stronger accents of the characters.  It became a little difficult to understand what some characters were saying because their dialect or accent was so hard to understand over the loud speakers.  So while I got most of what some of them said, I’ll just have to wait for the DVD and the captions to get what I lost in translation.  However, what I also really enjoyed about the movie was the musical score.  It sort of made me feel like I was experiencing Top Gun with mechs with its slightly bombastic patriotic composition.  However, that’s not a negative, but quite a good aspect to the tone and tenor of the film.

All in all, this movie was a pleasure and privileged to watch on the big screen.  It had funny moments, tender scenes, tragic sequences and insanely wild ticks that made the audience I was with roar with glee.  The lady of the couple sitting next to me seemed a bit annoyed at being dragged to see this movie prior to the movie starting.  Once it ended, she wasn’t only clapping, but her fortunate date now has another evening planned as I overheard her wanting to see the movie again.

I highly recommend this movie.  I recommend it because you get to see Idris Elbe do his Idris Elba thing and it’s a marvel to watch.  I recommend this movie because you don’t just get monsters attacking a city, but you get an understanding that the Kaiju are not simple, brainless creatures – these monsters have a plan.  I recommend this movie because it’s probably the most enjoyable and fun movie you’ll probably see in 2013.  I recommend this movie because it’s the reason why you go to the movies – popcorn fun that doesn’t insult your intelligence.  What Christopher Nolan did for inner-cerebral capers in Inception, Del Toro did for the big monster movie genre.

I don’t know if there will be a sequel or not.  I don’t know if this movie will blow out the box office or land a dud.  What I do know is that there will be few that you can take seriously that say this movie was bad or anything less than damn good.  For me, this movie was GREAT.  I don’t say that lightly nor am I exaggerating.  I say that because I’ve seen just about every domestic and foreign big monster movie made in the last 75 years and this is up there in the stratosphere of the great movies like Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, the Ultraman series, Gamera, King Kong or Gunbuster.  This wasn’t just a feast for the eyes; this was a five course meal for the movie lover in us all.

Enjoy the movie and save me some popcorn!

P.S.  Stay for an extra scene after the initial post-credits, but none after final post-credits.

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