Pacific Rim

Despite being a bit of a film fan (I don’t even write about half the films I watch), I don’t really get to the cinema often these days.  Not only are they expensive but you have the common problems of tall people sitting in front, noisy people, and sound systems which have been turned up to the point of discomfort.

Having said that I made a point of watching this one on the big screen, and this week the Blu-Ray was released so I picked it up straight away.

Pacific Rim is at its heart, a love letter to every giant robot or giant monster fan across the world.  It’s the story of Jaegers, giant robots which are our last line of defense against the Kaiju, monsters who are spilling into the world through a rift at the bottom of the ocean.  There’s a bit more story surrounding the pilots and the reason the Kaiju exist, but the plot exists as a vehicle for the core theme of robots vs monsters.

A film of this kind needs to be a visual spectacle.  The monsters need to look alive, the robots need to be heavy mechanical things.  I’m happy to report that Pacific Rim delivers in spades.  It looks incredible – the mechs affect the world around them in a way that really sells their scale, for example when Striker Eureka (and yes they’ve all got anime style names) starts to run while standing waist deep in the port, waves crashing up around it.  Another example is Gipsy Danger picking up an oil tanker and using it as a club in the middle of a city.  You can’t just do this a few times to maintain the illusion either, it has to be sustained for the entire film – which they did from start to finish.  It’s brash and colourful like a comic book too, the world is fairly dark and grimy but brightly lit with saturated colours that really make the whole film ‘pop’ on screen.

For the CGI to work at that scale within the context of the rest of the film, the live action sections need to seem a part of the whole – you can’t have moments where it looks like cutting to a studio in the cockput.  As such, a 40 foot high moving set was constructed, and all the cockpit scenes shot in there so the actors didn’t have to pretend to be thrown around because they really were bring thrown around.  If you watch the ‘making of’ snippets after the film, you can get an appreciation for the exhausting shoots the actors went through as a result.  Speaking of the actors, they all did a fine job especially Rinko Kikuchi as Jaeger pilot Mako and Idris Elba as Stacker, the unit commander.

For a film like this to really capture the imagination of the audience without just being a dumbed down Transformers style experience, it also takes a director who really cares about his craft, someone who knows how to make magic on the screen, someone who will simply build a 40 foot high moving set if that’s what needs to happen.  Enter Guillermo del Toro, who has pretty much made a living doing exactly this sort of thing.  I’ll be honest and say right now that I don’t think there’s another director alive who could have made this film with the same level of care and respect for the subject matter.  It’s clear he’s a fan of the subject matter, and obviously someone at Warner must be too to have handed him a giant budget to work with bringing it to life.

If you’ve ever enjoyed robots or monster films, you absolutely have to see this one – they just don’t make them like this usually, it’s a brilliant and unexpected diamond in a rough sea of low budget or superficial mediocrity.  It’s even got Ron Perlman in it, what more do you need?