Caliburn24 here at the Pan Pacific Defense Corps training academy.
Pacific Rim is one of the standouts of this year’s summer blockbuster fare. It has a very humanistic theme of cooperation behind all of the giant robot and monster action. The film by Guillermo del Toro also combines two of his loves into one movie. Both genres are very much true to form. The giant robot jockey who is young and untested (in this case Mako Mori’s character), the giant robot that is an outdated model, refitted to save the day, and of course the sleek new models. Giant monster movie tropes are also there; the quirky scientist who has a theory on how to stop the monsters (in this case there are two of them), the Kaiju stomping some city blocks, and even the kid (Mori in flashback). It still has del Toro’s mainstays; the outsider hero (in this case plus a group) who has to save the day, and of course monsters, Ron Perlman, and the dissection scene (also in Mimic and Blade 2).
The film also one of the best 3D films in a long time. The strength of good 3D has to do with proper framing of scenes. Guillermo Navarro, del Toro’s regular cinematographer, accomplishes the proper spectacle. Rain, snow, and water swirls down and around the camera. The Jaegers (giant robot mecha) shatter in chunks of debris, buildings shatter, and blue Kaiju blood spatters. It appears the filmmakers paid attention to the Marvel movies especially Iron Man. There is several scenes showing how the Jaegers are piloted; the Neural Handshake and the Drift (the mental connection between pilots). Since the filmmakers are careful about the process, the audience is ready to buy the Jaegers in operation. The only problem is there is no indication of how much power is used by the Jaegers. This is always indicated in Iron Man’s heads up display.
Charlie Hunnam from Sons of Anarchy plays Raleigh Becket. His part is the rogue pilot who doesn’t follow the rules. The reason behind Raleigh’s actions is not to show off, but to save as many people as possible. Raleigh and his brother, Yancy (played by Diego Klattenhoff) disobey orders to save a fishing boat. The film begins with Raleigh’s narration. He explains what was happened since the Kaiju came through the Rift on August 10, 2013 (this year!). This covered in detail (along with character back stories) in the graphic novel, Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero which was written by Travis Beecham. The Jaegers are constructed. The Jaeger that Raleigh pilots is the Gipsy Danger. Yup, not the best name, it does have a WW2-like name, but the “danger” makes it awkward. The head design is interesting something like the Halo video game and a BMX helmet.
Idris Elba, plays Stacker Pentecost, the leader of the Jaeger pilots whom happens to have been one himself. He is known for the BBC show, Luther, but is familiar to Marvel audiences as Heimdall in the Thor films. Elba brings gravitas to the role with the flaw that the early Jaegers exposed their pilots to radiation. His former co-pilot, Tamsin Sevier, died from the radiation. Raleigh has tried to hide working on construction jobs building the Anti-Kaiju Wall, but Stacker recruits him. Stacker’s aide, Mako Mori, is played by Rinko Kikuchi. Kikuchi had a breakout role in Inarritu’s Babel (2006). Mako’s name is a bit absurd, a name of a shark combined with a Japanese name that hints at the memento mori, a reminder of a dead person. Still, it is within the anime robot genre. Mobile Suit Gundam has characters like Bright Noa, Fraw Bow, and Duo Maxwell. Kikuchi is the new pilot with her past as a liability. She is more than capable of handling the action scenes including a kendo duel with Raleigh. He respects her as a pilot.
The other two pivotal characters are Charlie Day from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia as Newton Geiszler and Burn Gorman from the BBC show Torchwood as Gottlieb. Both provide some humor to the film, but their usefulness is also key to stopping the Kaiju. Newton is a Kaiju junkie and his obsession leads him to take risks and find Ron Perlman’s Kaiju body parts dealer, Hannibal Chau. Gorman’s Gottlieb uses a cane to walk around and is in conflict with Newton. The other featured Jaeger pilots are Herc Hansen played by Max Martini and his son, Chuck, played by Robert Kazinsky. They are Australian pilots who operate the Jaeger, Striker Eureka. Herc has respect for Raleigh, but his son is offended about Raleigh and Mako. The Striker is charged with carrying the nuke that will seal off the rift. Hmm, kinda reminds me of a Marvel movie, invading aliens traveling through a rift which is sealed off by nuke.
The other Jaegers include the Crimson Typhoon, operated by three Chinese pilots, and the Cherno Alpha whose pilots look like they stumbled out of Rocky IV (1985). This makes up for a diverse, international group like something out of Star Trek. The Jaegers are taken out of the defense of the world’s cities which intend to use the Anti-Kaiju Wall. The remaining Jaegers are placed in the Shatterdome in Hong Kong. The Kaiju have evolved and now counter the Jaegers. The Kaiju themselves are a nod to classic Kaiju like the one named Knifehead similar to Gamera’s Guiron, half-knife, half-shark, with a touch of Cthulhu. Still, the filmmakers have thankfully taken away the jingoism of a war film and brought it down to robot punching action. The combatants use train cars and tankers like the Incredible Hulk (2008)’s car boxing gloves. This is a summer movie with all of kaiju stomping action and some fun characters.