Movie Review: Pacific Rim
By Matthew Huntley
July 16, 2013
Five years later, the Kaiju appearance rate has increased and the monsters have learned to adapt all too well to the Jaeger’s techniques, making them that much harder to defeat. Pentecost is informed by the powers-that-be the Jaeger program will be terminated in six months, in favor of a “Wall of Life” project, which is a futile attempt to fortify the Earth’s continents with a steel wall. In a last-ditch effort to avoid an all-out apocalypse, Pentecost initiates a clandestine plan to destroy the portal bridge with a Russian nuclear warhead. For the mission, he gathers the remaining Jaegers and best pilots at the Shatterdome base in Hong Kong, including the hesitant Raleigh. We’re also introduced to Mako (Rinko Kikuchi), who, like Raleigh, is emotionally scarred and seeks revenge against the Kaiju for killing her family. I wish it went without saying that Raleigh and Mako eventually team up and play an integral role in saving the planet from total annihilation, or that they develop a romantic relationship.
The comic relief in the movie comes courtesy of Charlie Day and Burn Gorman, who play a couple of antagonistic scientists. Day’s character, Dr. Newton Geizler, has been studying the brains of Kaiju and has developed a way to mentally drift with them the same way a human does with a Jaeger. What he discovers about the beasts, I’ll leave for you to find out, although if you’ve seen Independence Day, from which this movie borrows heavily, right down to perfunctory grandiose speech and the means by which the humans infiltrate the alien world (not to mention a predictable human sacrifice), it’s not all that interesting. In the end, Pacific Rim doesn’t really add up to much story-wise, and we can pretty much size up the characters and their trajectories the minute we lay eyes on them.
I was hoping the movie would have gone off in directions that were different from what we’ve come to expect from the genre, but the filmmakers are once again under the impression the only thing the audience cares about are battle sequences, mayhem and special effects. Personally, I was more interested in the science and emotional and physical ramifications of the neural drifting and the how the characters’ recent tragedies affected their motivations. But the screenplay merely brushes over these points and settles on stock, superficial pathos that doesn’t really make us care about anyone or anything.
We know well in advance how everything is going to pan out, and that honestly makes the movie dull.
There will be many who claim Pacific Rim perfectly fits the mold of silly summer fun, but therein lies the problem: because it fits a mold so well, the movie comes across as moldy. While its effects go above and beyond, everything else about it feels dumbed down and templatized. Even with the summer movie-going season factor taken into account, I’m tired of hackneyed plots with one-note characters. Because Hollywood has come so far technologically, the industry needs to put it upon itself to be more creative with its storytelling so grandiose special effects take on new meaning. Simply throwing greater visual and aural qualities at us isn’t enough. How about raising the narrative bar too?