Monday, July 22, 2013
Directed by Guillermo del Toro and screenplay by del Toro and Travis Beacham from a story by Beacham, Pacific Rim is the story about a small band of humans trying to save the world from gigantic monsters known as Kaijus who are destroying Earth in 2020 as they emerged from a portal in the sea. The film is a tribute of sorts to the Japanese monster movies like Godzilla that is mixed in with a human story as a man tries to find redemption with a young rookie in operating a robot that can defeat the monsters. Starring Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Idris Elba, Charlie Day, Clifton Collins Jr., and Ron Perlman. Pacific Rim is a spectacular yet exhilarating film from Guillermo del Toro.
The film is an apocalyptic tale of sorts where humanity band together to fight these monsters called Kaijus who wreak havoc on humanity as they emerge from a portal in the pacific ocean. With the help of giant robots named Jaegers that are manned by two pilots, they’re able to battle the Kaijus but the monsters have gotten stronger and more dangerous as the world is about to go to an end where a retired pilot named Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) reluctantly returns to the fold to fight the monsters with a rookie named Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi). It’s a premise that is kind of simple in terms of what is expected in a monster movie where man-piloted giant robots have to battle these massive monsters to save the world. Yet, there’s a lot more that Guillermo del Toro and co-screenwriter Travis Beacham offer.
The film begins with Becket’s early successes as well as how the Kaijus arrived into the world and the war that forced many countries to come together and battle these monsters. It’s all told in a 20-minute sequence to establish key elements into the Kaijus as well as why Becket left the Jaeger program due to tragedy. Yet, it plays into Becket’s reluctance into returning to the program as well as the fact that his new partner Mako is someone who also had encountered tragedy due to Kaijus. Since the Jaegers had to be piloted by two people due to its size and need to be monitored mentally as it would be overwhelming for one person. It does play into the drama as well as the tragedies that Becket and Mako shared as well as Mako’s connection with Becket’s former superior Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba).
There’s also elements of comedy where it plays into two scientists in Dr. Newton Geizler and Dr. Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) who are trying to understand the mind of the Kaiju where the former is a bit of a nutcase who considers himself to be a Kaiju-groupie. Yet, their story would play into not just the development of the monsters but more into their intentions as they would evolve into something far more treacherous leaving the small numbers of Jaeger pilots to be overwhelmed. Particularly as the pilots of those Jaegers have some dissent towards Becket for being responsible for the fall of the Jaeger program as well as Mori for being inexperienced. It allows Becket and Mori to connect in many ways as it would help them get ready for battle if anything is going to happen. While it has a storyline that is formulaic, del Toro and Beacham do create enough weight to the story and the characters to make sure that these are people to root for.
The direction of del Toro is quite vast in not just the scope that he presents but also in creating a world that’s in a state of war with monsters as it’s heading into its final days with very little options left. The direction has del Toro not just employing a lot of massive set pieces and battles between robots and monsters but add that human element where two people have to work together or else they will die in the hands of a monster that continues to evolve. The stakes add to the sense of drama where del Toro knows when to focus on the pilots but also balance it with the way they control the robots to fight these monsters. Films in that genre usually tend to overwhelm the audience with a lot of fast-cutting and such to present something chaotic where it’s almost nonsensical. What del Toro does in the action isn’t just slow things down a bit where he gives the audience exactly what is happening but also remind them that there’s a human story involved.
The direction also has some intimacy in the way the relationships between some of the characters are played out as it includes some comedy where it keeps the story lively without the need of too much exposition. Some of these moments include Dr. Geizler’s encounter with a black markets dealer named Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman) who carries lots of Kaiju body parts that is full of humor as it provides some insight into what Dr. Geizler wants to do but also its dangers. Its climatic battle definitely lives up to not just the spectacle that is needed but also in how big the stakes are where characters have to make decisions in not just trying to save the world but also to stop the Kaijus from creating more havoc in the world just as they’re getting bigger and badder. Overall, del Toro creates a very sensational yet entertaining film that does a lot more than what is expected in a typical summer action-blockbuster.
Cinematographer Guillermo Navarro does brilliant work with the film‘s colorful cinematography from the stylish look of the scenes set in Hong Kong to the looks of the scenes set in the sea and at the station where the Jaeger pilots and crew live and work at. Editors Peter Amundson and John Gilroy do amazing work with the editing in creating some stylish yet rhythmic cuts for the film‘s action scenes without delving into the more common fast-paced chaotic editing style by slowing things down a bit while being more straightforward for the dramatic moments of the film. Production designers Andrew Neskorommy and Carol Spier, with supervising art directors Elinor Rose Galbraith and Richard L. Johnson and set decorator Peter P. Nicolakakos, do fantastic work with the set pieces from the look of the base where the Jaeger crew live at to the look of Hong Kong and Chau’s home.
Costume designers James Hagarty and Kate Hawley do excellent work with the costumes with Hagarty creating the Jaeger pilot suits while he and Hawley create more casual look for some of the characters with the exception of Chau. Visual effects supervisors John Knoll, Eddie Pasquarello, James E. Price, and Zachary Tucker do phenomenal work with many of the visual effects where it has a sense of realism in its look but also play to a world that is ravaged in chaos. Sound designers Scott Martin Gershin and Tim Walston do superb work with the sound to create layers of sound effects in the way the sounds of the robots and monsters as well as some of the locations they‘re in during the battles. The film’s music by Ramin Djawadi is wonderful for its sense of orchestral bombast mixed in with some low-key somber pieces while some of the heavier stuff includes contributions from Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello.
The casting by Margery Simkin is remarkable for the ensemble that is created as it features some small but notable appearances from Paul Michael Myers as the young Becket, Mana Ashida as the young Mori, Charles, Lance, and Mark Luu as a trio of Chinese Jaeger pilots, Robert Maillet and Heather Doerksen as two Russian Jaeger pilots, and Diego Klattenhofff as Becket’s brother who was also his co-pilot. Mark Martini and Robert Kazinsky are terrific in their respective roles as the father-son Jaeger pilot duo Herc and Chuck Hansen while Clifton Collins Jr. is excellent as the Jaeger technician Tendo Choi who is the brains of sorts behind the machines. Burn Gorman is very good as the very mathematics-based scientist Dr. Herman Gottlieb while Charlie Day is very funny as the more out there scientist Dr. Newton Geizler who finds a way to see what the Kaijus are going to do.
Ron Perlman is fantastic as the black markets dealer Hannibal Chau as Perlman brings a lot of chew-scenery and humor to the film as he is also someone that knows a lot about the Kaijus. Idris Elba is great as Stacker Pentecost as Elba brings a lot of gravitas as a man who is a true leader but also carries a past that haunts where Elba also gets the chance to have a speech before the final battle that is a truly unforgettable moment. Rinko Kikuchi is amazing as Mako Mori as a young woman who is definitely a skilled warrior and knows a lot about what to do in battle but is hampered by her own memories as she knows what she has to do to step up and fight. Finally, there’s Charlie Hunnam in an incredible performance as Raleigh Becket as a former Jaeger pilot who returns to the fold as he tries to deal with his own demons while helping Mako get ready as Hunnam has this sense of humility and guilt that he carries while having good rapport with Kikuchi.
Pacific Rim is an extraordinary yet exciting film from Guillermo del Toro. Thanks to a brilliant ensemble cast and amazing technical work, the film is definitely more than just a cut above most big blockbuster action films. It’s a film that pays tribute to the monster movies of the past while giving it a new spin for the 21st Century. It’s also a film that has enough drama and humor for audiences to be engaged to as well as action that can thrill them. In the end, Pacific Rim is a phenomenal film from Guillermo del Toro.
Guillermo del Toro Films: Cronos - Mimic/Mimic (Director's Cut) - The Devil's Backbone - Blade II - Hellboy - Pan's Labyrinth - Hellboy II: The Golden Army - Crimson Peak - The Shape of Water - Nightmare Alley (2021 film) - Pinocchio (2022 film) - The Auteurs #10: Guillermo del Toro
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