So, when I saw the first teaser for Pacific Rim a while back, my inner snob laughed disdainfully, along with the rest of the theater, at it’s ridiculous premise. Sea monsters vs. Robots. Seriously? But as the release date neared and the trailers showed more and more of Idris Elba, I erased this early memory and started getting really excited for the film. Admittedly, when the inner snob had its back turned, I knew I’d see the movie anyway just to see robots punching sea monsters.
And dammit, it was freaking awesome! Seriously, at one point a robot wields a Titanic-sized boat as a bat and beasts the hell out of a Kaiju (what they call the dino-looking ocean monsters). How can that not be awesome?
Awesome just like a monster truck rally is awesome. Mindless destruction and gritty, roaring, beastly machines. In fact, in the movie, the Jaeger fandom’s (Jaeger is the film’s more sophisticated term for “giant swagged-out robot defenders”) appreciation of the machine’s make, model, and beastly attributes is not dissimilar to how monster truck fans idolize the beauty of the car-crushing machines.
The plot was completely irrelevant. The acting had a few shining moments, almost all of them involving Idris Elba, who played the quiet storm of a leader in Stacker Pentecost and quite literally stole the show.
But also a strong kudos to Charlie Day, who has graduated from his squeeky-voiced days as the hilarious idiot Charlie in Always Sunny in Philadelphia, to a role where he gets a brain and a purpose as Dr. Newton Geiszler, the fanboy scientist. Frankly, a better plot may have been his character’s heroic journey.
Honestly, the weakest point of the movie was the protagonist Raleigh Becket, played by actor Charlie Hunnam, who must have drawn inspiration from every cardboard cut-out hero film ever, as he delivered literally ever (bad) line with the same “hero” tone. You know the one I mean, the one they use to say things like “Let’s do this together!” or “We can do this, [insert wide-eyed sidekick’s name here]!”
Luckily, he was kind enough to (strangely for a protagonist and hero) step into the background and let better characters steal the show. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever been so completely indifferent to the possibility of a good-hearted main protagonist dying in a film before.
Also the very young actress Mana Ashida who played Young Mako was incredible and the only one to capture the on-the-ground personal tragedies of this apocalyptic world in one of the only scenes with real human emotion. Some big studio better snatch her up quick.
As for the Geek Outsider-y stuff, this movie actually passes The Token Test with (1) at least two leading characters of color (2) who aren’t somehow related or dating (3) and regularly speak more than a few lines (4) about something that has nothing to do with race or racial stereotypes. Bam. Aside from all of the nameless East Asian characters doing martial arts, and the platinum-haired Siberians being sober meatheads, it basically wins. With only one woman who speaks to not a single other woman, however, the film fails The Bechdel Test pretty hard. Then again, it’s hard enough to care about the plot, much less representation, when you’re mindlessly enjoying watching beastly machines smash evil baddies who magically appeared one day because why not.
Elba and Ashida‘s artistry and Charlie Day‘s frantic comedy contrasted sharply against the bland and messy plot, but at the end of the day, this is a movie about Godzilla-shaming sea-alien-monsters getting punched in the face by crazy-awesome robot giants, so who cares how the acting was. It was amazingly fun, just like a monster truck rally. In fact, I can totally see a post-apocalyptic use for the Jaegers in Jaeger rallies where they Jaeger-smash replicas of metropolises or bat around Kaiju pinatas with cargo ships as sluggers. I’d pay to see that a couple times. Oh wait, I just did.