There has been much worry on the Internet over Pacific Rim’s box office prospects over the past week. “An original film like this deserves better” is what the film’s biggest fans say. Maybe we should just be rooting for “good films” instead of “original films” at the box office because, while Pacific Rim is based off an original concept, it’s not like Pacific Rim showed us anything we haven’t seen before in countless other blockbusters. As much as its supporters will tell you otherwise there isn’t much difference between this film and the first Transformers. They both feature some bad acting, stilted dialogue and are made just so we can see what big things fighting each other would look like. The only thing that ultimately ends up propping this film up is Guillermo del Toro’s enthusiasm for what he is doing and his ability to direct a top-notch set piece.
Pacific Rim takes place in the waning years of a war between humanity and the Kaiju, gigantic monsters that are invading Earth through a portal on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. To combat the Kaiju, humanity has built Jaegers (equally gigantic robots) to keep victory from falling into the hands of the invading Kaiju. However, with the Jaegars being picked off one-by-one, humanity must take a drastic course soon in order to avoid extinction. The film is directed by Guillermo del Toro and is written by del Toro and Travis Beachum.
Let’s get the bad out of the way first. Pacific Rim is hindered by two major problems. The first is that the film hits its high point two-thirds of the way through with a battle sequence in Hong Kong. This sequence (which must last at least twenty minutes and is phenomenally directed by Guillermo del Toro) is easily one of the best scenes of any film this year. The problem is that it seems like too much time is spent leading up to this moment (you can feel the drag even more on second viewing) and there is nothing after that which gets close to its grandness (despite being told that the stakes are being raised for later scenes).
The second is that the acting in this film is atrocious. Charlie Hunnam shouldn’t be allowed to carry a blockbuster again. Sure the script isn’t great but there were clearly one-liners in the script that did not translate at all through Hunnam’s acting. Equally as bad is Rinko Kikuchi, who struggled outside of her native language. That is not good when these two are supposed to be the emotional center of the film. However, the acting problems go much further than that. Idris Elba, while a good actor, is miscast as an age-hardened commander, and Charlie Day’s presence seems like it should be in a different film entirely.
If it seems like I’m going a bit harsh on this film it’s because I probably am. There is still a lot to like, and that mostly comes from Guillermo Del Toro’s joy with what he is doing. The product really benefits from this, as it seems like the technical components are at the top of their game in their attempt to homage films of old. The score by Ramin Djawadi recalls the Godzilla films while also finding some fresh components. The cinematography is very stylistic and the sound design is very impressive while fitting in as many sound cues to other “geek” films as possible.
Some strong direction from Guillermo del Toro and its incredible Hong Kong sequence, are enough to keep Pacific Rim afloat from some pretty critical problems.