Sean K. Cureton

A Saturday Morning Cartoon for Adults, Without the Guilt of Intellectual Pretention

In Movie Reviews: 2013 on July 27, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Theatrical Poster

Pacific Rim
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
3 out of 4 stars

Pacific Rim follows in the tradition of the Japanese Kaiju film genre, wherein a large creature of supernatural powers and origins decimates a highly populated city, or engages in battle with other monsters of proportionate size and fantastic grandiosity. The most well known Kaiju film series is undoubtedly the Godzilla franchise, which is also unquestionably one of the core inspirations for Pacific Rim’s creation, with the other being any giant robot Saturday Morning Cartoon you may or may not remember fondly from your own childhood. It is upon such comparably simple genre premises from which Guillermo del Toro’s film takes inspiration, and thankfully so. Pacific Rim is uncompromisingly indulgent in premise, with all of the focus of the film being placed on the sheer spectacle of giant monsters, organic and synthetic alike, taking part in the sorts of epic battles that are sure to leave any young child in a catatonic stupor of excitement and awe; such a stupor should, ideally, carry over into adulthood for the mature audience for which this film has been carefully crafted and designed, as del Toro’s new film finally offers the sort of giant monster movie that Michael Bay’s Transformers is only a poor attempt at being. Pacific Rim is like being able to watch those aforementioned Saturday Morning Cartoons once again as an adult, but without compromising one’s since acquired refined tastes and intellect, as del Toro’s monsters are delightfully self-aware and, dare it be said, smart.

One of the sources of contention for which several critics have already insulted the integrity of Pacific Rim is for the simplistic, yet simultaneously incoherent, nature of its plot. According to the screenplay co-written by del Toro and screenwriter Travis Beacham, much of the circumstantial narrative drive for Rim’s plot derives from a strange, portal-like connection between the world of the Kaiju creatures and earth, unleashing the Kaiju monsters upon mankind, and subsequently resulting in a years long battle intent on quelling the Kaiju onslaught. In order to subdue the Kaiju monsters, mankind has developed giant robot suits, called Jaeger’s, manned by two human pilots who operate the suit through a connection of the mind, body, and soul called “drifting.” Eventually, “drifting” is achieved between the Kaiju and a human scientist, which allows for the know-how to defeat the Kaiju in the final action driven climactic sequence of the film. While the specifics of such a plot are admittedly excessively unclear and unintelligent, the surrounding human versus monster story remains engaging and fantastically creative. The types of critics who find trouble finding any intelligent subtlety in the film’s plot suffer from an inability to take the leap from their own stuffy intellectualized pretentions to an understanding of the film’s actual intentions based on the unpretentious fascination that arises from sheer and unadulterated enjoyment; Pacific Rim doesn’t try to be intelligent or subversive, but achieves both accolades through its honesty and lack of pretention.

Pacific Rim is also one of the only films in recent memory to actually warrant the inclusion of the third dimension as a part of its filmic fabric. The grandiosity of the Kaiju/Jaeger battles are made only more fantastic through del Toro’s use of 3D filmmaking, which embellishes where it could just as easily distract. Seen in Imax, Pacific Rim’s impact is increased even further; with the addition of a larger screen, earth-shattering surround sound, and crisp high definition picture quality, supplemented by state of the art 3D, Pacific Rim is a spectacle that needs to be seen to be believed. Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim is thusly, in more ways than one, a direct response to James Cameron’s Avatar, except del Toro had the artistic mastery and insight to see beyond the use of simple sensory overload in order to placate his viewers. Pacific Rim palpably understands the importance of honesty in its narrative approach, while Avatar tries so hard to win over the affections of its viewers with borrowed dramatics without offering any acknowledgement of its admitted dependence upon special effects. Pacific Rim knows that its drawing power comes from its stunning technical achievements, and invites its viewers to revel in the afterglow without worrying too much about any imagined self-congratulating egotism.

Pacific Rim might just be the best summer blockbuster to come out this summer. Instead of aiming beyond the confines of its genre, Rim knows where it stands within the traditions and history of filmmaking, aiming to achieve what it sets out to do without making any concessions to attempt to appeal to viewers outside of its immediate demographic. Guillermo del Toro’s direction is epic in every clichéd sense of the word, offering the kinds of grand monster movie battle sequences sure to leave even the most mature adult in a state of child-like catatonic bliss. While Rim might not appeal to everyone, it knows where it stands, and is aware of its more indulgent nature and un-intellectual status as a monster movie picture. Nevertheless, del Toro’s film will take anyone willing to pay the price of admission on a wild ride, letting them get in touch with their inner child without sacrificing their more mature intellectual engagements. Pacific Rim is a film about giant monsters fighting giant robots, and a damn good one too.

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