Posted July 11, 2013 by Mikael Angelo Francisco in Movies/TV


Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures
Starring Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Charlie Day, Rinko Kikuchi, and Ron Perlman
Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Philippine Release Date: July 11, 2013
Runtime: 131 minutes
MTRCB Rating: PG-13 


It’s one of the most powerful and memorable lines in the trailers, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, in the entire movie as well. A battle-ready Idris Elba exclaims, “Today, we are canceling the apocalypse!” Sadly, in their attempt to finally put an end to the menace of the kaiju* invasion, the towering robots of Pacific Rim may have accidentally knocked down a few pillars of good storytelling as well.

Pacific Rim is director Guillermo del Toro’s visually stunning love letter to those kitschy Japanese science fiction shows of old. The premise is simple enough: gigantic, otherworldly creatures have surfaced from the depths of the Pacific Ocean, leaving havoc and desolation in their wake, and the world’s leaders have responded in kind through the Jaegers** – 250-foot tall manually operated battle mechs armed to the teeth with rockets, bullets and melee weapons. With each side determined to completely wipe out the other, the Earth becomes a battlefield for these walking weapons of mass destruction for years.

Some Japanese pop culture enthusiasts might draw parallels between this film and Neon Genesis Evangelion (because of the tone and similarity in the way the Jaegers are piloted), Gundam G (because of the emphasis on each Jaeger’s country of origin), or Super Sentai shows like Zyuranger and Gokaiger (because of the aesthetics and internal design of the Jaegers). Speaking of which, the overall design of each of the Jaegers is impressive. These are not shiny sports cars for bored billionaires to display; these are battle-scarred bipedal death machines, repaired and reconstructed time and time again using the materials humanity has managed to salvage from the war-torn landscape.

Including an actual frigging nuclear reactor. In kaiju-infested Russia, reactors nuke YOU!

A significant chunk of the film is homage after homage of Japanese science fiction classics. Fans of Godzilla and other kaiju-themed series will definitely find something to appreciate here. The hideously intricate kaiju designs, the dynamic cinematography, the terrifying portrayal of worldwide destruction, and the apocalyptic and grim environment all paint a strikingly magnificent spectacle that this generation could have enjoyed on television, had the kaiju trend boomed today.

Additionally, virtually all of the Jaeger vs kaiju fight scenes appear to reference signature moves in anime like the Robot Romance Trilogy (Combattler V, Voltes V, and Daimos). Heck, in some sequences, I was expecting the colors of the background to change to purple, orange, and black, because the Jaegers looked like they were executing the special moves that the gigantic combiner robots of the ‘70s were known and loved for.

Unfortunately, while Pacific Rim has much to offer in terms of style, it is sorely lacking in substance.

Well, save for THIS kind, which the kaiju seem to have in spades.

The narrative is about as mechanical and hacked together as the robots that serve as tools to progress it. The plot is painfully predictable, although that probably isn’t news to anyone. Relationships and flashbacks are forced into the plot in order to maintain some semblance of story, and while the portrayals from Elba and company were satisfactory, it is very hard to develop any sort of attachment or concern for these characters or for the world they live in. The characters’ reactions to some major occurrences in the film (especially during the climax) are baffling and unnatural, and while part of their unflinching nature may be attributed to the years of war that hardened them, it is still quite puzzling to see them hardly batting an eyelash after certain revelations that come at the worst possible times in the film. It’s as if they’d somehow broken the fourth wall and read the script, and were simply going through the motions in order to take the film from one exploding kaiju torso to another.

If anything, the poorly executed attempts at incorporating a backstory into this film only serve to hinder and limit the action. It’s akin to a mad scientist putting together scraps of expensive meat to build his own monster, and then deciding to hastily construct a skeleton as an afterthought. I’m willing to admit that this might be a bit of an unfair assessment, though, as interviews (such as this one) actually reveal that del Toro put a considerable (and almost obsessive) amount of detail in this film. It is a real shame that very little of his brilliance and purpose manage to shine through the heavily-reinforced exoskeleton of this film. This is GI Joe meets Transformers meets Godzilla, and I’m not completely happy with the results.

Just throw Snake Eyes in there somewhere and you’re all set.

If you’re a lover of Japanese science fiction or anime, yearning for an aesthetically orgasmic nostalgia trip, or simply looking for an entertaining way to spend two hours of your life, then by all means, go see this film. Otherwise, just dig out your old toys from your storage boxes (or gently take them from your display shelves) and play with them instead. I’m pretty sure you can come up with a better (and less expensive) story in about an afternoon’s worth of playtime.

RATING: 7 out of 10 Underpaid Extras in Rubber Monster Suits


*kaiju – giant monster, which the film takes the time to explain right before it begins. Thank you, Mr del Toro!

**Pronounced as “yey-gurs”. Don’t feel bad, I got the pronunciation wrong at first, too. If you didn’t, though, then maybe *I* should feel bad. Heh.

A big “Thank you!” goes out to our dear friends from Warner Bros. Pictures Philippines (Like the official Facebook page HERE) and SM IMAX Cinema (Like the official Facebook page HERE) for the special screening of Pacific Rim.

Mikael Angelo Francisco