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Pacific Rim Film Review

For something that is overtly a Transformers styled Summer blockbuster, it comes as a surprise that Guillermo Del Toro (of Pan’s Labyrinth fame) is the director. And this is a very good thing. For every Summer, we get the destruction-heavy blockbusters. Man Of Steel was both full of heart and loyalty to the series but came with destruction-porn in equal measure. Pacific Rim on the other hand, despite appearing as a Transformers rip-off, it is actually quite far away from the brooding silly nature of that franchise. Instead what we have here is something imagined from a Japanese anime and it works very well.

The film starts in the present day. A portal of some kind is discovered in the Pacific Ocean in which aliens called the Kaiju. A towering species, it took humanity 6 days to kill the first one that appeared as with current resources-it was not enough. So humanity gets together to create a mecha called Jaegers. Jaegers need two pilots to control the Mecha while calibrating their minds into one. And the results started to show over the next few years. That is until an incident which lead to a decline in the popularity of the robots and has led to those in charge take other options.  As these Kaiju evolve and get accustomed as to how humans use the Jaegers, it is time for action in repelling this threat.

Now it is very very easy to get dismissive over the CGI, the destruction and large scale of the film. It appears too much in the same vain as Transformers and other big-budgeted films. That being said however, I am for one someone like Del Toro has handled a film like this. Because what you get with a Del Toro film is characterisation and a great sense of authenticity. The characters are well-rounded and range in roles. There are a few cliches here and there with rivalries, underdog sort of nature that pops up in films far too regularly.

Idris Elba (Martial Stacker) excels particularly in this film also. He appears at first straight faced and predictable. Far from it as the film unravels, we as an audience are peeling the layers of this character until we see his motives, feelings and the consequences along with that.  Charlie Hunnam (Raleigh) and Rinko Kikuchi (Mako) also are characters that are well measured and layered.

There are some problems though for the film which I think needs to be put into perspective. Firstly, the audience-the appeal. It will appeal mostly to the teenage demographic and older children i.e. 9+.  Now as an adult viewing this and granted there is plenty of heart, there is quite a fair lack of depth. Outside of the three characters, there isn’t much to tell. The story-good versus evil and the template is the same. Though I do give credit for the central themes of the film in particular the synchronisation of the pilots in the Jaeger programme. Makes for a distinctly surreal scene which works brilliantly.

The second problem is the CGI. I can appreciate the scale needed in this film and the CGI needed to make it happen. But it does appear like a Transformers rip-off and it is extremely unfortunate that this notion is perceived throughout. The more you compare it to a Summer blockbuster, the more traits that appear. You can see what this film is going for and you can see what Del Toro is trying. I think something is lost in between the two.

And that is the flaw that brings it down in my opinion. Del Toro wants to create a characterised western live-action anime. You can see what he is inspired by. But because its a western film, some of that characterisation is lost and such is the focus on CGI, most of the audience will miss out on the central themes of the film. Like what it would be like to synchronise your mind with someone close to your heart for the first time? Viewing their darkest and deepest memories, feelings? Why isn’t the harvestation of dead Kaiju not picked up more? These are unique themes and along with the the three main character performances help elevate a film that would struggle.

It may sound slightly negative but don’t be fooled. This is a Summer film with plenty of heart and authenticity. It is good and it should be better. This is the result when you have an Eastern film idea made in the West. Some things are made better and others are made redundant. The lack of depth hurts this film for adult viewers. Yet for teenagers and older kids, it is a great viewing. Also it is a surprise to find it is much better than Transformers and could be a strong franchise in the years to come. ***

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