Normally my tolerance for big, stupid, virtually plot-less movies is somewhat limited. Whilst they can be enjoyable, ultimately they’re not really satisfying because they lack all of the things that I’ve begun to expect as I get older and grumpier. By normal standards then Pacific Rim would be off to a bad start – big, stupid and virtually plot-less just about covers all of the essentials in this film, but somehow it’s all done with enough style & wit to make you forget about the fact that you can feel your brain dribbling out of your ear.
It also helps that it’s one of the prettiest movies for a long time.
Now don’t get me wrong, the lack of plot, characterisation and anything even approaching juicy dialogue does prevent this hitting the ever evolving top tier of summer entertainment, but that doesn’t matter. Anyone going to see this film is only really interested in seeing giant robots knock seven shades of shit out of giant monsters and on that front the film delivers in spades. It’s a movie that does everything you’ve seen on the poster, nothing more, nothing less. For me it felt a bit like Speed Racer, you had to ignore the traditional marks of quality and focus on the fact that as a film it’s pushing the envelope about as far as it will go. In a few years this will be seen as a key film in the way that effects are realised.
Which is part of the problem – if you’ve seen the advert then the film doesn’t really expand on that in any way, at no stage does it go off in an unexpected direction, allow for character growth or even the most rudimentary of twists. It’s clear how things will turn out as the various tropes of the genre get ticked off along the route to the end. Monsters keep getting bigger and more dangerous? Check! Old warhorse better than new technology? Check! Heroic sacrifice by grizzled old officer? Check! Sometimes this feels less like a film and more like a checklist, this is a film you could play bingo with.
Despite all this I would still recommend that this is a film that deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible. Quite simply it is one of the most beautifully designed films for years. All of Del Toro’s films are beautiful to look at, but this raises the game again, no idea is too excessive, no detail too small. There’s the impression that everything has been thought about from the ground up, and that the backstory of the design choices almost replace the story of the film. And because so much time and effort has gone into the design the whole enterprise suffers none of the traditional large scale CGI problems, everything feels as if it has a sense of weight, gravity works in a way that is recognisable to us and despite being essentially about bloody big robots hitting bloody big monsters it somehow feels grounded in reality. Sure, it loses some of this when it starts to try to explain the way things actually operate and the biology, but that’s down to problems with the script rather than design. The design is pretty much faultless.
Recommended? If you disengage your brain before sitting down then it’s immensely enjoyable (although for me there was always the nagging feeling that if a fraction of the money had been spent cleaning up the script it would be better). It’s nowhere near the top flight that summer movies can achieve these days, but it’s still worth shelling out for.