"Inclined to ignore any sense of character development simply for a series of CGI-happy battle sequences..."
Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim marks the bringing together of two of cinemas most celebrated science fiction mainstays, pitting both aliens and robots up against each other in this immense Hollywood blockbuster. Therefore it goes without saying that there will be quite a vast audience for this title, though what can't be determined, is just how many will leave satisfied with what they have witnessed.
Set in the not too distant future, Earth is under attack by a handful of gigantic monsters ('Kaiju'), rising up from a portal beneath the ocean to cause havoc on land, killing whoever gets in their way. As the human race struggles to cope with the immensity of the alien intruders, they build 'Jaegers' – giant robots piloted by humans to provide a fair combat against the creatures. As a battle to end all battles looms and the future of the planet is in severe doubt, we rely on pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) to come to our rescue, as he seeks revenge on the species that killed his brother and former co-pilot. However stepping in to assist him is Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), as the pair work under the close guidance of commanding officer Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) to ensure to safety of Earth and mankind.
Though Pacific Rim isn't supposed to be a hearty, emotional ride for the viewer – one at least expects a hint of sentimentality, as a film that seems inclined to ignore any sense of character development simply for a series of CGI-happy battle sequences. We simply don't care if our protagonists live or die, which defeats the object somewhat. Entering into the main crux of the plot far too quickly, we are briefly informed that Earth has been inhabited by huge alien lizards. That's all we get by way of background information, where a more steady, prolonged explanation of events may have been beneficial, in order to understand the narrative and thus feel more emotionally invested within it.
The picture is lacking in depth also, as the storyline remains too simplistic and straight-forward. It's simply Jaegers versus Kaiju, and we are left wanting by way of political context or any intriguing subplots to contend with. Meanwhile the dialogue is lacklustre to say the least, and though the story itself bears much potential, the more intimate scenes and supposedly sharp banter amongst our characters is disappointing and unnatural. What doesn't help in this regard, is the array of mediocre performances, failing to light up the screen and give the audience something to adhere to. Dare I say it, but even Elba is below his usual magnificent standards.
As a result we left reliant on the combat scenes, and in fairness, they are mightily impressive. What del Toro manages to capture so effortlessly is the sense of scale, as these fights between monsters and robots are epic and intimidating, as the weight of the battles is wonderfully judged and well-crafted. Though the CGI is great and the 3D well implemented, it becomes increasingly obvious that del Toro was aware that such sequences were the finest on offer, as we are inundated with fighting scenes, so much so, that you simply stop caring by the end as you've seen it all before. They may be breathtaking in places, but they grow so repetitive, with little variety of villain. At the start it's robots versus aliens, and by the end, yes, it's robots versus aliens again, giving the viewer little to differentiate between the early fights and the supposedly grander, more momentous one at the finale.
Pacific Rim is essentially just glorified Power Rangers, and though there is a great sense of fun attached – with del Toro evidently vying for a more animated and effervescent approach, going against the typically dark, Christopher Nolan-infused blockbusters we are treated to at present, where this doesn't go against the norm, is within the elongated running time, as another picture to fall into the current trend whereby every blockbuster must be over two hours long to be considered as a proper film. So buckle up, this trip along the Pacific just got all the more tedious.