Guillermo Del Toro’s “Pacific Rim” is the thinking person’s “Transformers,” not because of its depth but for the basic level of coherence that Del Toro and co-screenwriter Travis Beacham bring to the story. It proves beyond any doubt that giant robot films are not inherently stupid — it’s all about how they are built.
The giant robots called Jaegers were created to directly combat the Kaiju, gargantuan reptilian creatures that emerged from the ocean floor and laid waste to major cities such as San Francisco and Sydney, Australia. But the Kaiju attacks become increasingly brutal and overwhelm the Jaeger technology, and as the world’s nations are on the verge of a collective defeat, veteran Jaeger pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam of “Sons of Anarchy”) and a skilled prodigy Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) are teamed to mount a final push to destroy the beasts.
It does not matter that the basic plot is an amalgam of monster movie tropes — it’s all in the execution. Del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Hellboy”) and Beacham fill the movie with interesting characters, including comically obsessed scientist Newton Geizler (Charlie Day) and Hannibal Chao (Del Toro regular Ron Perlman), a black market hustler who harvests organs and parasites from dead Kaiju and sells them for their supposed mystical properties. Of course, Del Toro acolytes will want to go immediately to the director’s insightful audio commentary, as well as multiple entries in the “director’s notebook” and making-of featurettes. “Pacific Rim” does not rise to the level of high art like “Pan’s Labyrinth,” but it shows what happens when a true artist gets a chance to make big-budget popcorn fare.
— George Lang