Pacific Rim Movie Review — Feels Like Traditional Hollywood

As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.
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Pacific Rim was, surprisingly, a pretty good movie. When I first saw a trailer I thought, “pfft, cool action but probably nothing else”. However, I was happy to hear good things about Pacific Rim beyond the action and thought I would give it a shot.

In some ways Pacific Rim feels like Jurassic Park, just a lot worse, of course. It has the eccentric and over-the-top characters (primarily the scientists), a powerful score, and plenty of predictable Hollywood glory. If you forgive the movie for its unoriginal Hollywood elements, you will find it enjoyable.

Pacific Rim was clearly created to appeal to the Japanese and appeal to Kaiju fans. The name for the monsters — Kaiju — is the name used to refer to the Japanese “monster vs. robot” movies. As a result, the movie is full of Japanese elements; some of which are a little too obvious, perhaps. Including Japanese dialogue throughout and the casting of a Japanese lead actress are the most obvious. Interestingly, they decided to set most of the movie off the coast of Hong Kong instead of Japan which would have been the obvious choice.

It should be obvious what Pacific Rim’s primary strenght is: computer animation. The CGI was truly incredible and I cannot begin to understand how long it must have taken to put the movie together. The battles in the ocean are particularly impressive because of the particle effects required for the water, but I digress.

The secondary strength is the story, believe it or not. The concept is quite simple but surprisingly strong. Pacific Rim introduced an interesting means of piloting the robots (with dual-pilot mind control), though it is probably less unique to Japanese fans of Kaiju movies. Emotional elements were woven in relatively well and made you feel for the characters more than the average action movie.

A small thing, but the physics seemed realistic. The massive robots moved somewhat slowly and really felt like the heft they would have in real life. As it turns out, the physics are still ridiculously unrealistic — as made clear in the (magazine-only) Wired article “Fighting Physics: The Megamath in Pacific Rim”. Essentially, a single robot punch in the movie should take 20 seconds instead of the 1.5 seconds portrayed. Still, they certainly feel hefty on-screen!

One of the movie’s weak-points was Charlie Hunnam. He is easy to sell as the “badass” but his acting was never fully convincing. I would consider him B or C-list at best. Rinko Kikuchi was not much stronger, unfortunately. Her acting seemed to get much better as the movie went on but she still had many awkward scenes (some intentionally so, I will admit). Overall though, the acting could have been much worse so I won’t hold a grudge.

Pacific Rim is definitely worth a watch. If you go see it, make sure you watch it on the biggest and most intense screen possible. Ultra AVX or IMAX is a necessity.

Spoilers

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Am I the only one that is mad that they survived at the end? Obviously it is hard to sell a sad ending to Hollywood but I felt it would be poetic if they sacrificed themselves for humankind. Instead their personal feelings for each other almost cost mankind everything. At the very least they could have allowed Raleigh to be the sacrifice for humanity and for Mako.

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