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Movie review: 'Pacific Rim' a noisy, murky, sometimes entertaining homage to Japanes monster movies

Gene Triplett Published: July 12, 2013

The nights are dark and rainy and giant monsters are on the prowl. They’re tearing up cities a la Japanese Kaiju movies dating back to Godzilla’s birthday in 1954.

It’s pretty familiar territory except the guy in the rubber suit stomping through plastic toy skyscrapers is replaced by the moody directorial style of Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s

This conceptual art image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows the Knifehead monster from the film, "Pacific Rim." "Pacific Rim" fulfills a very basic boyhood fantasy: big ol' robots and giant monsters slugging it out. The concept to Guillermo del Toro's "Godzilla"-sized film is about as simple as it gets, but actually constructing such mammoth creations is a far more arduous undertaking.  (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures) ORG XMIT: NYET529
This conceptual art image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows the Knifehead monster from the film, "Pacific Rim." "Pacific Rim" fulfills a very basic boyhood fantasy: big ol' robots and giant monsters slugging it out. The concept to Guillermo del Toro's "Godzilla"-sized film is about as simple as it gets, but actually constructing such mammoth creations is a far more arduous undertaking. (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures) ORG XMIT: NYET529

Labyrinth”) and the state-of-the-art F/X of Industrial Light and Magic (ILM).

And then there are those cool, 25-story robots — known as Jaegers — operated by two human pilots who are mentally fused together to keep the machines’ right and left hemispheres in sync as they do battle with these creatures that have risen from a breach in the floor of the Pacific Ocean.

Kaiju is the Japanese word for giant beast. Jaeger is the German word for hunter.

And that about sums up the whole premise of “Pacific Rim,” del Toro’s homage to the movies that thrilled him in his geeky formative years: robots and monsters duking it out, tearing up great urban centers like San Francisco and Hong Kong while they’re at it.

It’s like a very loud and noisy 3-D video game blown up to IMAX size (in select theaters), except you don’t have control of the action. That’s in the hands of del Toro, co-writer Travis Beacham (“Clash of the Titans”) and the incredible ILM.

But the writers did throw a story into the midst of the sound and fury. Seven years into this near-future war, the Jaeger program is losing ground as the beasts from beneath the sea seem to be growing bigger and beastlier.

Bitter former pilot Raleigh Becket (hollow hunk Charlie Hunnam), who lost his co-pilot and brother in a Jaeger fight, is reluctantly called back into service and paired with a young Japanese woman named Mako (Rinko Kikuchi), but during the mind-melding process — called “The Drift” — Raleigh discovers in Mako’s memory a traumatic childhood experience that may seriously impair her ability as a co-pilot when they do battle with the Kaiju.

Idris Elba shows tough yet regal bearing as program commander Stacker Pentecost, a father figure to all, but especially to Mako; Charlie Day is rather irritating as a nerdy scientist; and too little is seen of the always watchable del Toro-regular Ron Perlman as a sleazy parts dealer.

Visually, “Pacific Rim” is hit and miss, so to speak, since most of the battle scenes take place at night, in the rain, resulting in a murky effect that renders the action hard to make out. But

there are also moments of visual (and even emotional) splendor, particularly in one apocalyptic daylight scene during Mako’s flashback to childhood.

Such human scenes are scarce in this free-for-all of monsters and heavy metal.

-Gene Triplett

MOVIE REVIEW

‘Pacific Rim’

PG-13

2:11

2½ stars

Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman.

(Sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief language)