IN SHORT: Giant alien monstrosities invade Earth through an interdimensional portal deep in the Pacific Ocean. The solution to this problem? Giant frickin’ robots!
WHAT IT IS: Giant robot versus giant monster porn at its ABSOLUTE FINEST!
WHAT IT IS NOT: Anything that remotely makes sense. Seriously, just check your brain at the door and have a good time.
WHAT I THOUGHT: This is the most fun I’ve had at the movies all year. In fact, I’m hard pressed to recall a recent movie I enjoyed more than Pacific Rim. It’s an absolute blast that should not be missed.
This movie has an unabashed, unquenchable sense of fun. It never lingers on the non-fun for very long. For example, the main character’s brief emo I-don’t-want-to-be-a-pilot phase is beaten out of him by his commander in three sentences.
The movie sets out to entertain, and it achieves this objective marvelously. The fights are tense and exciting, full of delicious visual eye candy. The giant monsters, named Kaiju, are powerful, formidable foes with plenty of variety and dangerous tenacity. Despite the ridiculous premise, I felt the dread of impending human extinction and became emotionally invested in the struggles of our heroes.
The giant robots, called Jaegers, are cool and fun to watch in action. Each one has a distinct feel in terms of design and combat execution. My only complaint is they feel a little too generic. Unlike classic giant robots such as Evangelion, Battletech, or Gundam, there’s no real way to look at a Jaeger and say: Aha! That’s a Jaeger! Notice the [distinguishing feature]. But this is a minor quibble, and does not detract from the movie.
The characters are, almost without exception, likable and fun to follow. Heck, even the hothead jerk pilot ends up being likable. There’s even a small fart of a love story thrown in, but it’s so small it never detracts from the movie. The story stays firmly focused on what works best for a giant robot / giant monster beat ‘em up.
That’s not to say the movie is flawless. Far from it. The plot is absolute nonsense, even by the standards of other giant robot franchises. In most giant robot fiction, we get some sort of excuse for why we need the giant robots, such as how normal weapons bounce off Angel AT fields in Evangelion. Here, it’s just “to fight monsters we created monsters.” Seriously, how exactly is a giant robot better than, say, a thousand cruise missiles? And while we’re at it, how is building a giant wall around the ENTIRE PACIFIC OCEAN more cost effective than building more Jaegers? Seriously, if I start poking holes in this plot, we’ll be here all day.
Also, the way the Jaegers fight is just painfully stupid at times. The hero Jaeger, Gypsy Danger, has two huge plasma cannons and two very deadly swords (post upgrade). You’d think that the pilots would soften up their target at range with the plasma cannons and then close in with swords for the kill, right?
Um, yeah. The Kaiju don’t have guns, and we’ve got these plasma cannons. So let’s just wade in close and start punching them. Wait, that’s not working? I guess we should use this big Kaiju-slaying sword, then.
Seriously, why weren’t they using the sword from the beginning?
Oh, and did I mention the Jaegers need two pilots? Apparently, controlling a humanoid combat weapon is too much mental strain for a single human to handle. It takes two pilots doing a mind-meld sort of thing called a drift. For, you know, plot reasons I guess. Granted, from a story-telling perspective, drifting is very effective for revealing a pilot’s history. It’s also absolute nonsense.
So, yeah. Let’s just recognize the plot for what it is: an excuse to have giant robots brawling with giant monsters. And frankly, I’m perfectly fine with that.
VERDICT: Strongly Recommended.