I’ve always been confused by the popularity of Guillermo del Toro. Fanboys and girls have been nuts over his properties for years; yet, whenever I watch any of his films, I feel like I’ve been letdown. Why is that? Is it because of the hype, most of which he can’t control? Maybe. Is it because of his enthuasim for projects that, quite frankly, I have interest in? Possibly. Or is it because of the visual edge he always seems to bring to his project? Again, that’s a real possibility. However, save for Pan’s Labyrinth, I’ve always walked away from a del Toro film with a feeling of wanting more from this supposed creative genius.
So, when I found out about Pacific Rim and its concept — I was intrigued. Giant Robots vs Giant Monsters — what testosterone fueled man wouldn’t love that? Add to it a stellar cast (Charlie Day, Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Ron Pearlman, etc) and a script from Travis Beacham (who wrote the great “Killing at Carnival Row” script that has yet to be made) and my expectations were heightened. This could be one of the most epic films ever made and I couldn’t wait for the experience. Needless to say, I wish I could have waited because what I saw was a letdown — a major letdown.
A weak story killed this movie. Aside from the epic fight scenes, there was no real story and no real characters. People went through the motions and at no point did I feel anything for any of the major characters except for the Asian lady. And, the only reason I felt anything for her was because the child actress playing her in a “drift” sequence (A flashback sequence, essentially) was so good as a terrified little girl that it was the only part that made me feel for any character, at their core. Raliegh’s (the lead guy) brother’s death at the beginning did not make me feel anything when it should have. There was also a distinct lack of females in this film and was surprised by it. Normally, it’s not a critique that I’d make but there was only one lead female in this ensemble. Although, I liked his performance, Clifton Collins Jr’s character could have easily been made into a female to add an extra shot of much needed estrogen into this picture. Hell, you didn’t have to change any lines for him, and could’ve gotten away with making his character a lesbian. Charlie Day stole the film and was the standout as a Kajiu loving scientist named Newt and he cemented his status as a bonafide movie star with his performance here.
The big selling point, the fights, were surprisingly hidden. What do I mean by this? Well, every major fighting sequence occurred at NIGHT. What? At night? What does that mean? Essentially – you never saw anything during the fights because the Kajiu and Jaegers were masked by the night. Now, I’m assuming this choice was made to cut down on the CGI costs but come on — when you know your final battle is going to be (SPOILER ALERT) AT THE BOTTOM OF THE OCEAN (/SPOILER) then you can set your second act fight during the day. Sure, there were glimpses of daytime fights, seen in a flashbacks, but those were only that — glimpses. Nothing longer then a few seconds here and there. The big battles — were all at night. A choice I HATED and did not understand from a purely story perspective.
There was also some very weird character choices made throughout this film along with some very obvious allegories being thrown in for good measure (like the fact that the governments decide to build giant walls to “keep the Kajiu’s out” ala the wall being proposed by the US to stop Mexican’s from hoping the border). I blame this on the writing and well, del Toro’s influence over the project. I have a feel he was behind all of these decision’s and Beacham was just following orders because he’s a good writer (as seen in glimpses in Pacific Rim).
At the end of the day, a weak story, hidden fights (again, why were all the major fights at night?!?), some weird character choices, and the lack of emotional connection to the story and characters caused Pacific Rim, sadly, to be a letdown. I wanted more because I thought there’d be more to love about this.
My recommendation? Wait for this to hit the dollar theaters then watch it. If not, wait for it to show up on Netflix.