You know, after a while, all action movies start to look the same. Tons of punching, tons of shooting, tons of explosions, all trying to outdo each other with how big they can get. Last week, I thought I’d hit the limit of stupid action violence in The Lone Ranger. Today, it was crushed underfoot by a giant robot. And I mean, a giant robot. One about as tall as a New York skyscraper.
Pacific Rim is a film that I like to describe as Godzilla versus Transformers, only bigger. Is it the next BIG thing, or will it sink in the ocean? Let’s take a look at the trailer and find out. (To follow along, go to YouTube and look up “Pacific Rim Official Trailer _3 (2013) – Charlie Hunnam Movie HD.”)
So who stars in this movie? Charlie Hunnam plays Raleigh Beckett, the protagonist; he has also starred in Deadfall, Green Street Hooligans, and the TV series Sons of Anarchy. Idris Elba is Stacker Pentecost; his previous films include Thor, Prometheus, and American Gangster. And Rinko Kikuchi plays Mako Mori; she has also been in . . . well, a lot of foreign films I’ve never heard of. She did have a role in the film Babel, which was nominated for several awards.
Guillermo del Toro directs; his other directing credits include Pan’s Labyrinth, Blade II, and Hellboy. His films tend to be dark fantasies populated with monsters, so this film seems to fit right in.
The trailer opens on Pentecost seeking out Beckett. He finally tracks him down on what looks like the discarded set from a martial arts film and says he needs his fighting skills as a pilot. The next scene shows him flattening a woman in an arena. Congratulations, Beckett; you beat up a girl. Clearly, you’re the man we’re looking for to fight monsters the size of Rhode Island. Beckett says he’s not the number one man for the job, but Pentecost says he believes in second chances. So do I, but it’s probably not best to hand those out during a monster apocalypse.
So Beckett goes to the factory in an undisclosed location where the giant robot suits are manufactured, and he learns about the “neural handshake.” I know it’s semantics, but is it still a handshake if it’s done with nerve cells instead of hands? Shouldn’t it be called a “nerveshake” instead? Anyway, Beckett gets plugged into the giant robot as egg yolk gets sucked out of his helmet, and the “nerveshake” engages, allowing him to pilot the robot through the waves of the Pacific. But the neural handshake implies the need for a copilot. And guess who it is? Mako Mori, that girl he beat up back in Asia-land! You two are going to get along so well together, I can tell.
But right after we see a really cool shot of a monster ripping up the Golden Gate Bridge and a not-so-awesome shot of a fighter jet flying right into the beast, we find out that the two pilots have to share memories to pilot the giant robot. This could get awkward quickly; I know there are memories I’d rather not share with others, and to suddenly have to share all of them with a complete stranger could be embarrassing and even painful. Why do they have to share all their memories and not just the ones that entail combat training? Why couldn’t the robots have been designed to be piloted by one person? Why, because one guy in a giant mech suit wouldn’t be a story, and we need there to be a relationship so that we can pretend this movie has a reason to exist.
The machines fight the monsters on both sides of the Pacific while the pilots are treated as heroes. Beckett gets into a stereotypical standoff with some random guy no one cares about. He then tells Mako that the fight they’re about to get into “is for real,” earning the title of “Captain Obvious.” Another guy we know nothing about describes the robots as “2,500 tons of awesome.” I’m not sure how that thing doesn’t collapse under its own weight, then. One monster appears to be killed by missiles, making me wonder why we didn’t just invest in a bunch of those instead of impractical enormous robots (how did we know we’d need them, anyway? It’s not like they could just be thrown together; we had to have them ahead of time). Robots fight monsters, monsters fight robots. And through it all, Pentecost waxes eloquent that “Today, we are cancelling the apocalypse!” In its place, we are scheduling a lovely tea party!
But this trailer just wouldn’t be complete without my favorite scene. The giant robot walks down the neon-lit street, dragging some kind of fishing vessel. It goes right up to one of the monsters and basically slaps it upside the head with the ship. That’s right, a giant robot slaps a giant monster with a ship. How awesome is that!
And that brings us to the crux of the issue with this movie. Based on the trailer, there isn’t much in the way of story, relationship, or character. All the trailer has done is set up the premise and thrown a bunch of obscenely over-the-top action in our faces. Quite honestly, the movie probably won’t be much better.
But that’s not the point. This is a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters, and that’s all it needs to be. In the same way, the Mortal Kombat movie didn’t have much in the way of story or character, but it didn’t need to have all that. It was about the fight scenes, and that’s why people watched it. I think the main difference between Pacific Rim and The Lone Ranger is that the second film had potential to be so much more and turned out to be so much more stupid in so many ways. This movie could only be an over-the-top action film, and it doesn’t try to be anything else. So if your expectations aren’t any higher than that, if you only want a mindless action flick with some of the biggest fights you’ve ever seen onscreen, then yeah, you might check it out. Personally, I’ll be skipping this one.
But I might go out and buy some fifty-story Rock’em Sock’em Robots so if the monster apocalypse comes, I’ll be prepared.
Pacific Rim is owned by Warner Bros.