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Guillermo del Toro's big-budget monster/robot match-up milks as much badass as it can from its high-def debut...
Warner / 131 Minutes / 2013 / Rated PG-13 / Street Date: October 15, 2013
An exhausting collision of Godzilla movies and Rock-Em-Sock-Em video game bombast, Pacific Rim is a movie for fanboys who like toys. Guillermo del Toro, the idiosyncratic visionary behind Pan’s Labyrinth, was supposed to help raise The Hobbit to the same heights Peter Jackson and company were able to achieve, but instead, his interests drew him to this bloated actioner, a blockbuster as pedantic as it is surprisingly off-putting.
In short, it simply doesn’t seem like the sort of movie that the suits at Warner Bros. would have been excited to invest in. Sure, now that Charlie Hunnam is probably that dude from Fifty Shades of Grey and Charlie Day is everybody’s favorite supporting-cast funny man, there’s a bit of minor-league pedigree to the thing, but around every turn in Pacific Rim’s kaleidoscopic storyline, things look expensive. Even though the movie at its best is the kind of imagined fare that hyperactive seven-year-olds would drum up while playing with Star Wars figures in a sandbox, it surely seems as though no cost has been spared in bringing del Toro’s saga to the big screen.
When contemplating the film’s plot, it’s hard not to hear echoes of Mothra’s screech in the distance. In the near future, enormous beastoids from under the sea (well, there’s an intergalactic portal they come out of on the ocean floor, but you know what I mean) threaten mankind’s very existence, and the only way to combat them in any real way is to have men and women drive equally gigantic cyborg machines that have a chance to defeat these space-ocean meanies in mano-a-mano fashion. Oh, and there’s a plan to take a nuclear device down to the portal and zap these monsters once and for all, but it’s mostly about the punch-outs between human-driven androids and slug beasts on Earth’s surface.
Like so much modern blockbuster fare, you’ll take from Pacific Rim what you bring to it. There’s no denying that there’s a thrill to some of the CGI mastery on display here – it all becomes a spasming blur after a while, but it’s easy to laud the computer dudes and dudettes behind the movie’s steely visual tone. Audiences hungry for maybe a little protein among Rim’s syrupy action will walk away from the movie unsatisfied, though. The fact that del Toro was able to get this zany thing made is intrinsically fascinating (it turned out to be a hit, too!), but discerning tastes might balk at the thing, wondering why so many talents – and so much coin – was thrown at a project so narratively vacuous.