You wanna go to the movies but there’s nothing “good” out? Wrong. The best summer movie has been in theaters for weeks and you’ve been too hip to experience the geeky masterpiece that is Pacific Rim. I understand; I was once like you. Seeing the initial trailer for Pacific Rim, I framed it as “Godzilla versus the Power Ranger Megabot.” Lame. How ill-informed I was. Luckily, I reckoned that it’s helmed by Guillermo del Toro – who looks like a Mexican hobbit (A plus!) and has a deft hand with fantastical monsters (my bladder has still not recovered from chase scene involving the abomination I call “eyeball hands, baby-eater saggy-crotch”) – so at least it would be entertaining. Then I saw that Charlie Hunnam, the underwear model-looking star of Sons of Anarchy, and acclaimed Japanese actress Rinko Kinkuchi were the leads. I am ALL ABOUT handsome dudes and azns in white-people blockbusters. Plus, it was hot out, and my friends kept making references that I wanted in on. So I entered the theater for Pacific Rim, not sure what to expect but very intrigued.
It took mayyyybe 3 minutes for me to become a total Pacific Rim fangirl. The background story, taken with a little suspension-of-disbelief, is just plausible enough to keep the focus on the massive, technical wonderbots known as jaegers. The mechanical visuals are amazing—each vertebrae locking into the pilots’ armored suits, the smooth shift of metal with each punch, the recoil after a plasma shot—everything looks polished yet gritty-real at the same time. And cargo ships get used as clubs lest we forget the scale of the operation.
That pilots are psychologically linked to each other (gold star for the writer who came up with “neural handshake”) and their jaegers gives gravity to the fight; they can’t just abort mission if their steed gets fucked up. It’s a heavy duty bond; Raleigh reunited with revamped Gipsy Danger is something to get sentimental about, and non-relatives who can “drift” together make me believe in soulmates again. To top it off, the score is spot-on and when that riff blasts as jaegers drop in to wade through the ocean I get pumped every time.
Charlie Hunnam is an excellent cast for good guy with a heavy heart Raleigh Beckett. Hunky but personable, he’s got a kindness in his eye that makes him easy to root for and shamelessly swoon before; he’ll protect and fight for you. And robo-scars look good on him. Rinko Kinkuchi is mesmerizing, albeit a bit too regal and mature to play the Japanese rookie, Mako Mori. Though it might just be the character, I wasn’t feeling the whole submissive girl/brilliant fight strategist duality—SPOILER: bitch was raised by a black man; why she frontin’?! Speaking of which: Idris Elba as Stacker Pentacost. What a formidable, cool commander. There’s a backlit shot of him climbing solo out of his jaeger after KO-ing crab-kaiju in Tokyo that I want on a poster to scare away my nightmares. Most impressive, though, is the performance of baby Mako. She may be doll-like, but girlfriend can emote. You can feel her terror as she quakes in the alley. Watching the joy and hope on her face at her rescue, I swear my heart grew three sizes.
The kaiju and jaegers, of course, steal the show. Del Toro set out to make each monster unique and the attention to detail is incredible. Different skins stretch across wings, over flabby gorilla bodies and horned skeletons. Crab pincers, metal-melting vomit, and electromagnetic pulses make for creatively undefeatable foe. Their android counterparts are just as cleverly equipped with chain swords, missile guns, and rocket elbows. The jaegers are the champions of our world and they look the part with their candy color shells and humanoid build. They’re also delightfully racist since each is a product/protector of specific countries. China’s remaining jaeger is helmed by a triplet of little Shaolin monks in matching sweatsuits. Russia’s looks like Sputnik on legs and powers through kaiju with brute force (it’s the oldest and heaviest model of the fleet). Gipsy Danger, the star of the film, is so Mmmurica that it’s got the jaeger-equivalent of a pinup girl tattoo on its boob.
The intricacies in Pacific Rim might encourage viewers to start thinking about its world more. How do humans have a full visualization of the bi-dimensional breach? What is the world economy like? Were Europe and Africa just like “thanks, brah”? Why is Hellboy in this movie? STOP. These sorts of questions led me into a discussion of communism, the environment, and giant plasma cannons. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Pacific Rim is a monsters vs. robots movie. There is no deeper message or proverbial takeaway. It is simply entertaining and thrilling and visually orgasmic. It’s currently got a 7.7/10 on IMDB after seventy seven thousand votes (to which my late-adapter British friend exclaimed “whot?! But it look rubbish!”) and had a “soft” opening weekend where it was outdone by Grown Ups 2 (ouch). But Pacific Rim has clung on to yield a worldwide gross that already merits talk of a sequel/prequel. It’s a bandwagon, jump on and go for a[nother] ride!
*This post brought to you by new contributor, childhood friend, and future world leader Elise Kuo.*