Sunday 14 July 2013

Movie Review - Pacific Rim

Sophistication, complex morals and dark undertones. These have become the essential ingredients of summer blockbusters, say many. It's widely believed such conventions were coined by one Christopher Nolan, who pioneered a unique spin on the superhero genre with his Dark Knight trilogy in 2005 which has since had a powerful influence on filmmaking in general. Though he clearly wasn't the first to make summer movies more complex, he certainly popularised it in recent years.

But sometimes, a summer film doesn't need deep morals, philosophical dialogue and allusions to terrorism. Sometimes, all a summer film needs is a bunch of big humanoid robots smashing the hell out of giant monsters. And such a gift has gracefully been bestowed to us in a time of need - in the form of Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim.

It was always assumed that alien life lived among the stars, but it instead came from the depths of the Pacific Ocean. Giant monsters dubbed 'Kaiju' begin to lay siege to Earth and its populous cities; to combat the threat, all of the world's nations unite and initiate the Jaeger programme. Robotic humanoid fighters are constructed to fight the alien invasion, but as the Kaiju grow stronger and stronger, even they prove futile during the war. Before the programme is shut down, the tenacious Marshall Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) forces his greatest pilot Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam) out of retirement to work alongside rookie Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) and begin the last stand against the overpowering invaders. With luck, he and and the rookie can be the final ray of hope for the human race.

So that's the basic setup - aliens rise from a mystical portal in the ocean and begin to royally fuck shit up. Pacific Rim is chockablock with magnificently epic action sequences, depicting the gargantuan destruction of numerous environments as the Kaiju and Jaegers battle for ownership of the planet. Del Toro's sci-fi hit is also swimming in a delightful sense of excitement and fun, using quirky humour to its benefit through loveable characters such as Newton (Charlie Day) and Hermann (Burn Gorman) and straying away from any overwhelming negativity. Never does the film feel depressing or sombre, which is a huge plus considering its high stakes premise.

But let's face it, it's the action that people are really interested in. And boy, it does not disappoint. Ignoring the few clunky shots and headache-inducing sound, the fight scenes are spectacularly epic and creatively choreographed. It never actually feels like a bunch of robots mindlessly punching stupid aliens; there are some excellent ideas implemented into the violent battles and some stunning use of special effects, which is all complimented by a superb soundtrack by Ramin Djawadi. The CGI is top notch from start to finish - and made even more stellar in glorious IMAX. The 3D adds nothing to the experience except some eye strain, but the beauty of the images is impossible not to appreciate regardless. Perhaps the sound could've been tweaked as is the case with many IMAX films, but on an aesthetic level, Pacific Rim is wonderfully crafted.

It has problems, however. Aside from what has been said, the film is a bit vague with the backstory of its alien villains and doesn't dedicate enough time to clearly explain any plot twists or revelations. It's not difficult to piece together what is happening, but the film can be quite jarring with its tonal shifts, so much so that it doesn't relax at times to explain relevant details. It also lacks a bit of emotional weight when it comes to such scenes, and it's difficult to care for admittedly likeable characters when their moving moments aren't very well developed.

But what it lacks in substance it makes up for in style. Pacific Rim is a fun and thrilling action film with some incredible fight scenes and superb performances, particularly from Idris Elba and Charlie Hunnam. It's easy to appreciate how it deliberately steers away from being too intelligent - it strives to be an entertaining blockbuster, but not so much that it sinks down to the stupidity of Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich. It treats its audience with a degree of respect, and sensible people should stop seeing shit like Grown Ups 2 and return the favour. Get on it!