Pacific Rim Review: Fun with Monsters & Robots

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Pacific Rim is the movie that the generation of Power Rangers and Voltron was destined to make.  In fact, there were moments I could swear I heard the theme songs of one or the other of those icons of childhood dramatic conflict ringing through the colossal robot-on-giant-monster battle scenes.
Don’t mistake this as criticism, however.  I think that my experience was precisely the foundation the movie’s makers hoped for – and needed.  This age has gone past ripe to decadent with the robot and/or alien-monster genre, and rather than try to pretend a fresh approach, Pacific Rim embraces every trope, every motif from just about any and every predecessor.  And by reveling in everything from Iron Man to Godzilla, with nods to Independence Day, Men in Black, Transformers and even Top Gun along the way, the film ends up being both a roaring good time and eye-rollingly predictable. 

So whether Pacific Rim bores or thrills you is going to depend entirely on your state of mind rather than on the film itself; is it cliché or is it homage? In one perspective, the stale acting, predictable scenes and “copying” of predecessors in the genre can make the whole thing feel like been-there-done-that… only with epic levels of destruction and gorgeous visual value.  But on the other side, which is the way I experienced it, the aping of other apocalyptic alien monster movies and tv shows is tribute, camp in some instances, and in that spirit, I ate it up. It felt somewhat nostalgic while being a new story.  And though, with a few exceptions, the acting was just about a step above Power Rangers, I let myself get sucked in.  I especially enjoyed the pairing of the characters of the hipster geek scientist with an old fashioned traditional nerd scientist. Lame, dorky good fun! 

So let’s get to a simple no-spoilers plot overview.  The film hits the ground running – which I love.  If you're going to do action, start with ACTION!  Giant alien monster, Kaiju, attacks earth, but from a
dimensional rift, not from a ship in the stars.  Very Godzilla footage.  More monsters follow, so a new form of weapon – a suit of armor (can we give Tony Stark any credit here?) – is built to engage the enemy.  This suit is so complex it needs two pilots to make it function (Go Voltron Force!  “...and I’ll form the head!”  Trust me, you’ll hear that, every time they deploy the robots the way they shoot these scenes).  More monsters – more robots – more monsters… I won’t give away
any more of the fight-to-save-the-planet, against-all-odds, root-for-the-underdog, all-we-need-is-a-rousing-“not this day”-speech, film.  I will say that this is one of the few movies I think is a must see in Imax.  I normally do not enjoy 3D, but this one is done beautifully in Imax 3D - and if you don't 3D, at least the bigger the screen the better. The entire point of the movie is the eye candy of the awesome robots and detailed monsters. 

On a side note, I was so refreshed by the minimal bad language in Pacific Rim.  I know it is violent, so many will still keep kids away, and it’s scary, so go right ahead.  But it is almost like animated violence since it is robots vs outlandish monsters – Power Rangers style.  Splitting hairs, maybe, but still…  Anyway the language was one of the cleanest I’ve experienced in a long time from any rating, and it felt great!  I’m sure a few slipped by me without my noticing, especially from one particular character – a blackmarket scoundrel - but the expletives were MORE rare throughout, and I think that shows thoughtfulness, knowing much of the audience will be younger.  As a mom, and as an intelligent person who prefers a variety of words, well done!

All in all, the film is a geek’s dream in so many details – the particular brand of humor, the homage to other works, the flawless digital effects.  But if you’re not a geek, just don’t take it too seriously; roll your eyes at the poorly delivered lines and predictable plot and then ENJOY the action and opulent graphics – it’s a summer movie, not an Oscar contender!

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