Rated PG-13 for intense sci-fi action and violence, as well as brief language
Directed by Guillermo Del Toro
Written by Travis Beacham and Guillermo Del Toro
Starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Charlie Day, Rink Kikuchi, Max Martini and more
This is what it must have been like to see “Star Wars: A New Hope” when it first came out in theaters.
“Pacific Rim,” the new movie by Guillermo Del Toro, is the kind of thrilling, engrossing sci-fi epic I thought Hollywood had forgotten how to make. You may think you recognize the different elements – massive robots, sea monsters, ragtag resistance fighters – but they’ve been transformed into something entirely, wonderfully new.
The basic story is nearly as old as stories themselves, starting in a world at war. The sea monsters are enormous alien creatures, sent through a dimensional rift located at the bottom of the ocean, and are relentless enough to be genuinely terrifying. The people of earth barely have time to breath before the next one shows up, and the news reports sprinkled throughout the movie add a depth of reality that only serves to pull the audience further under.
Our cast of heroes all have their roots in classic archetypes – the redeemed soldier, the war victim seeking vengeance, the leader with a secret and a soft heart – but the actors make them all perfectly, beautifully original. You can see their histories in their faces, and every moment of courage feels earned.
Even if you recognize the actors from other movies or television shows, they make you forget they were in anything other than “Pacific Rim.” Charlie Hunnam, known mostly for his role on the TV series “Sons of Anarchy,” is nearly unrecognizable as the redeemed soldier. He can’t talk about his vulnerabilities, but the fact that you can see them on his face adds a quiet depth to the character. Charlie Day, best known for his role on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” is equally unrecognizable as a scientist who becomes a hero in his own right.
The battle scenes are terrifying in the best possible way, dropping you right into the middle of the action. Audience members who like to stare at CGI might be disappointed – most of the fights take place during rainy nights – but the movie makes sure you feel every punch and throw. Our visibility is limited just enough that we experience some of the same fears as the people piloting the robot, desperately gripping the edge of our seats as we try to figure out where the next punch is coming from.
There are several genuinely funny moments, allowing laughter to release the tension without sacrificing any thrills or emotion. Ron Perlman, playing a black-market dealer in monster parts, anchors one of the most hilarious sequences with over the top bravado and a flat-out refusal to wink at the camera.
Singling out any of these elements, however, fails to do true justice to the movie. The genius of “Pacific Rim” is the way that it all comes together into a stunning whole, then sucks you in so deeply that you completely forget to pick it apart again. For the length of the movie, all you know is that the world is about to end and you’re with the only group of people who has any chance of stopping it.
For a little while, anything is possible.