Saturday, December 14, 2013

Pacific Rim Shot: Del Toro Gets Lost

Movie Review: Pacific Rim

Director: Guillermo Del Toro

Reviewed: 13 December 2013

jamesintexas rating-- *

Giant monsters fighting giant robots. What's not to like? Actually quite a bit. A disappointment on nearly all levels, Pacific Rim misfires by failing to craft a story worthy of its premise. Every time monsters appear on the scene like misshapen dinosaurs and dragons, the film displays some ferocious imagination. Every time the monsters disappear, the film grinds to a complete halt.

A portal created in the open ocean floor allows the beasts to travel between dimensions, launching a furious war upon humanity that dissolves countries and borders, rallying the planet together in its own self-preservation. The only way to fight these monsters involves two pilots stationed inside a giant robot doing something called a mind-meld neural handprint where they share a consciousness and control the robot's movements. Then, the robot gets dropped into the ocean near the monster, and they fight.

Idris Elba plays Stacker, the leader of the resistance. Charlie Day plays nerdy scientist Dr. Newton. Charlie Hunman is our charisma-less protagonist Raleigh. Rinko Kikuchi is the mysterious Mako. No one stands out in a positive way here. There are humorless scenes in the giant compound as the robots are maneuvered and improved. A lot of scenes. Too many scenes. It is kind of like watching The Empire Strikes Back and spending nearly all of the movie in the Hoth Compound, updating the speeders for the cold, training tauntauns and worrying about an impending attack. In that film, it establishes atmosphere and character and moves on to the AT-AT attack scenes (in daylight). Here, Del Toro dwells in this workshop realm which is visually uninteresting and distracts from the main event. This movie needed more fights and less talking.

Del Toro films many of the fight scenes in the dark in major cities, with the robots hurtling ships at the bad guys in addition to shooting missiles at them. The dark obscures some of the good stuff, but the fights can mostly be followed. I think the logic of the film is lacking at times. Why wouldn't fighter jets with missiles and bombs be more precise? Is humanity's best option a clunky, obvious target just asking to be knocked over? Additionally, the computers in the robots seem to fail quite a bit, a precarious situation with the robots fighting in and around so much water. Hearing characters scream about neural handshakes over and over again is not compelling, and the film just never generates any momentum.

Del Toro made Pan's Labyrinth, one of my favorite films of the last decade, so my hopes were high, but despite some nasty-looking monsters and a few fun fights, this movie is completely forgettable and a colossal waste of time and money.

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