I don’t often have many issues with movies. I can normally see the good parts of a movie and see the positive without minding too much about the flaws. But I knew, I knew that I would have to be biased with Pacific Rim, because I have been excited for it for so long. I have to say, as a film, it did not disappoint. I can’t see it disappointing anyone. Although, let me first say, see this in a theater that has good speakers. My first viewing was in an AMC with very mediocre speakers and it lessened the intensity of the fights, where my second was at a local theater where the sound definitely brought a lot of the punch.
The movie starts off with a great introduction to the Jaeger program as well as the Pacific Rim and the Kaijus. But, I’ll just say, if you are in a large theater with people who bring their crying children to a monster movie, you might have some difficulty hearing things. There is a lot of dialogue. It’s not a brain dead movie that shows you explosions and guns and lacks in material.
There is some social commentary on the Pan Pacific Defense Corps, the international group that funds the Jaeger program, that operates, like most big associations, more like a business than anything else. Inventing, not only the protective Jaeger program, but also financially benefiting from commercial revenue made from the Kaijus and Jaegers. There is a lot of density to the plot and it takes some paying attention to catch everything, Travis Beacham and Guillermo Del Toro both did great jobs with their writing in this one and it shows through clearly until the end.
It kicks off with the main character: Raleigh Becket, played by Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam, with his brother Yancy. They are Jaeger pilots who pilot Gypsy Danger together. The subject and use of “drifting” through a neural handshake is really interesting, and the movie does a great job in showing and explaining how it works. Those pilots who have a stronger neural handshake have a stronger drift and therefore fight better together. It’s only natural, then, that family members normally fight together. In fact, the main Jaeger pilots we find in the movie are related. They don’t explain much of the fighting or the science in it, a lot of it is left for the audience’s imagination and the physical representation of entering someone else’s mind and knowing them completely in a matter of seconds.
Gipsy Danger, an American Mark 3 jaeger, is stationed in Alaska. The first view of Gipsy shows us just how massive the Jaegers are and just how ferocious the Kaijus are. It’s a sea battle of epic proportions and the best introduction to Pacific Rim. After a vicious sea attack by a Kaiju, Yancy is slaughtered, leaving Raleigh for scraps. He pilots the jaeger on his own onto the shores of Alaska and wakes up a broken man. When he says later that he could feel the exact pain and fear that his brother felt when he died, it isn’t hard to imagine his pain or his anguish.
Surviving, he spends his time building the pacific wall, set up in from California to Alaska to protect the Western coast. However, he soon gets a visit from Stacker Pentecost, played by Luther’s Idris Elba, who was his commanding officer and leader of the Jaeger program. The program has proven to be weakened after losing multiple jaegers from stronger Kaiju attacks, who are adapting to the strength of the Jaegers. Forced to relocate to Hong Kong, Pentecost picks Raleigh up along the way and offers him a chance to join him in the fight where he can sit back in the pilot’s seat for Gipsy Danger.
The opening hour is a lot of introduction, but the introduction of the Jaegers were by far the most awesome. Seeing a lot of the set brought the mood of the film in a great direction. The set up of the cockpit as well as the command center were flawless, and I felt excited as I saw them gear up ready for the fights. The jaegers all came with awesome names and personalities. Crimson Typhoon, China made with triplets at the helm, each controlling an arm of a three-armed beast. Striker Eureka, Australian team by a father and son duo that is their heaviest hitter. Cherno Alpha, Russian made with extra endurance. I thought every one of the jaegers were chosen so perfectly with the pilots. Plus the entirely international/pan pacifical feeling of the film added some great parts to the film.
They arrive at base, and meet with Mako Mori, played by Rinko Kikuchi, first appearing only to be someone working on the Gipsy Jaeger project, but later revealed to be an adopted daughter of Pentecost’s. It’s quickly established that she is worth more than she is given her credit after she goes into hand to hand combat with Raleigh and proceeds to beat him. Drift partners are judged by their fighting compatiblity, and Raleigh quickly sees that Mako would be the best co-pilot for him, but is almost immediately shot down by Pentecost.
When finally given the chance to pilot Gipsy with Raleigh, Mako’s neural handshake with him goes south after she “chases the rabbit” which means she goes after a certain memory when they start the drift and instead of bringing nothing into the drift. She replays the day her parents died and the day the Kaiju Onibaba attacked Tokyo and nearly obliterated her. She is saved by Pentecost in his Jaeger, piloting alone, and later adopted by him. In moment of fear, Mako, entranced by her own memory, initiates a plasma cannon from the jaeger in the Shatterdome, the location where they create and maintain the other jaegers.
Forced to literally pull the plug on Gipsy for fear they’ll lose the entire crew along with their other pilots, Mako is determined to be too much of a rookie and not ready to pilot a jaeger. People get angry, especially Chuck Hansen, the pilot of the Striker. They had hoped to use Gipsy for defense for the Striker to attack the Rim and end the battle with the Kaiju, but with Mako out it doesn’t work. He insults Mako, which, of course, leads to a fist fight with Raleigh. I can see this moment easily be taken as a sort of macho chivalric defense of Mako’s honor, or something like that, but I don’t think anyone would have done differently in this situation. When your co-pilot, whose mind you have entered and understood, has been bullied after she has relived the most traumatic moment of her life what the hell are you going to do? The fight is broken up and after talking to Pentecost, Mako is put on the bench.
The second part of the movie is very much based in action as well as research into the Kaijus. The two scientists Newten Geisler, played by a twitchy Charlie Day, and Hermann Gottlieb, played by
Ianto Burn Gorman, are in charge of researching the monsters and start off on rather opposing sides of theory. Gottlieb on the more statistical side and Newt on the experimental. Newt comes to a conclusion that it is possible to co-pilot and drift with one of the Kaiju’s brains in order to figure out what is going on with the portal so that they can destroy it. Gottlieb is able to figure out that the attacks will come exponentially quicker, from one single day event to two events in a day, and eventually to three and more until they reach the destruction of all mankind.
Despite having no support from Pentecost or Gottlieb, Newt decides to attempt the drift with the brain and gets more than he has planned. But he realizes that the brain is too weak and that he needs to have a fresher one. He is sent by Pentecost to the city in order to meet in contact with a black marketeer named Hannibal Chau with all of the freshest kaiju parts. Not long after Newt’s drift, they get their first “double event” when two Kaijus come out of the portal at once. Striker Eureka is sent out to defend the coast, while Crimson Typhoon and Cherno Alpha are sent into the ocean to battle the Kaijus.
The two kaijus are deadly, they rip through Crimson and Cherno like they are nothing and soon leave Striker to fight them alone. But just as they prepare for battle, one of the kaiju sends out an electromagnetic shockwave, shutting everything down for hours, including the base command. Without electrical/digital power, they are sitting ducks. But Gipsy has been reupholstered to be one of a kind, she is powered by nuclear power and therefore analog and it’s Raleigh and Mako to the rescue. Hands down, this was the best battle of the movie. Both in the water, as well as on land. The sheer size and destruction was just enough. In my opinion it meshed destruction and despair much better than Man of Steel did, Guillermo did a good job of having you care about what was happening, even in the epic size of the destruction. After being taken into the air by the wings of a Kaiju, Mako has an awesome moment when they are all out of weapons and she pulls out a sword and slices the kaiju in half, in vengeance for her family.
Right before the attack, Newt meets up with Hannibal, who we now see is Sons of Anarchy’s Ron Perlman (apparently Guillermo watched a lot of SOA and decided to hire Charlie and Ron as a combo pack, seems legit), and has a mini-kaiju-nerd-boner for all of the fresh parts that Hannibal keeps and sells to prospective buyers. He asks for a fresh brain and tells him of what happened when he drifted. When the kaijus attack, Hannibal correctly deduces that because of Newt’s drift with the kaiju, they have come to find him. They kick him out onto the streets to hide and find shelter with the other people on the street while Hannibal retreats to his bunker.
I thought Hannibal’s character was cool, but ultimately rather useless. I mean, he was funny and definitely not boring, but that storyline felt a little weak. Granted, it is through his meeting with Hannibal that they realize that the neural handshake may be why the kaijus have come so quickly. After Gipsy takes out the remaining monster, they are hailed as heroes. Hannibal scavenges the bodies of the kaiju and finds one that is pregnant. The baby comes out and almost instantly strangles himself with his umbilical chord.
Hannibal triumphs in its face and stabs it with his little butterfly knife, but is instantly eaten by the baby in a last moment of life, which was kind of hilarious. However, Newt is able to use the brain of the infant kaiju and meld with it. At this moment, Gottlieb comes and offers his help in co-piloting. The two have spent most of the time arguing comically, so this is actually kind of a sweet moment. They come together so that they can handle the neural load and so that Newt isn’t left a pile of dribble after drifting. After they drift, they both come to the realization that the plan to destroy the portal is severely flawed after seeing how it all works. They rush back to base in an effort to inform the team.
Meanwhile, the jaeger pilots are gearing up for their final show down. The father-son duo of the Striker Eureka is broken in half when the father, Herc, returns with a broken arm. Needing another jaeger to go with Gipsy down into the rim, Pentecost gets back into the jaeger seat. They do a little recap on his background; he retired from piloting after they realized that the nuclear core of the jaegers could have cancerous effects on the pilots. After multiple runs, he was told that if he ever stepped into a jaeger again, he would not make it. Mako realizes this and tells him that he will die, but he knows the price of not going.
Well, in a battle to cancel the apocalypse, he isn’t just going to lay down. Taking Herc’s place, he pilots with Chuck, having (I’m assuming) piloted with Herc before, he knows he can be compatible with Chuck. Which I guess is kind of a cheat, since they spent such a long time trying to find a co-pilot for Raleigh. But whatever, this is a one-time kind of deal. He makes an inspiring speech, but one we’ve heard almost all of in the trailer, so it was a little anticlimactic. So, the two jaegers go off with the payload to destroy the portal, as the scientists come back and tell them the news. That the portal is “locked” via dna, and that they need to fall into the portal with a carcass and trick the portal into thinking they are kaiju, before they can detonate.
Too bad they are quickly overpowered by the first Category 5 kaiju and another double event, so to those who are counting, that’s three kaijus. THREE. Both Jaegers take severe damage. The deep water gives the Kaiju an advantage and leaves Gispy with no arm and a bad leg, while Striker is on it’s last leg battling the category 5. Realizing they might not make it, it’s up to Gipsy to go into action. When the category 5 is in trouble, it sends out a sonic call that brings the other kaiju over to Striker, realizing that this is their change, Striker detonate the payload and Gispy takes the left over carcass of the Category 5 and propel into the portal. This last scene does not show just how depressing this scene could have been, with Herc at mission bay watching his son sacrifice himself and finally grow up to be a man, especially after a tearful goodbye in which we see a side to Chuck that isn’t an egotistical arrogant boy but a soldier ready to die for his world.
Not to mention, Mako watching on as her father and her hero, who saved her life, goes down with the jaeger to save the world. The last moment between the two, with him telling her that he’ll always be with her in the drift and her replying thank you in Japanese has me in tears just thinking about it. But the scene is fast and after the explosion of Striker, there is little time to waste as Gispy makes her way to the bridge with a carcass. But in last seconds, the category 5, still alive after the bomb, attacks Gipsy. Sending a sword into its neck, they are able to battle the Kaiju while falling into the rim and kill it before they are sent through. There, they are able to explode the nuclear core, which Raleigh must do by hand. They are running low on oxygen after the final battle with the category 5, and he sends Mako up in a pod before setting it to blow by hand and escaping himself. They save the day and it’s an awesome battle.
Overall, a great movie. Nothing shocking or plot-twisty happened, so I went in feeling it was going to be an awesome monster slaughter and I left loving it for that exact reason. The casting was perfect, Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi had great chemistry together, and Idris Elba was the image of perfection. Supporting cast like Charlie Day and Ron Perlman were all perfect. The soundtrack by Ramin Djawadi, composer for Game of Thrones, was epic in every form of the word, in fact I had it playing while writing and editing this whole review. The child actor they picked for Mako’s younger self was probably the most adorable child I’ve ever seen and a great actor. The shots of the film were cinematically gorgeous, both in large scenes and close scenes. I can’t even think of something that I didn’t like about this, this is perfection.
Overall Score: A