Guillermo Del Toro’s mega-budgeted, ultra-deafening sci-fi blockbuster-to-be is big, big, big in every respect. First off, you don’t make a movie about skyscraper-sized robots doing battle with equally massive sea monsters in this day and age without going for broke on the special effects. In that respect, “Pacific Rim” (a.k.a. “PacRim” if you’re a fanboy, “Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures Pacific Rim” if you’re in bed with the studios) delivers. There is an epic quality to the film, but not one that disassociates itself from its homespun heritage. “Pacific Rim” plays like a tribute to films like “Godzilla,” except with roughly 50 times the budget.
Unfortunately, there is an awful lot happening in “Pacific Rim,” not all of it good. I grooved to the idea that the world reacted to a sudden influx of inter-dimensionary monsters called “kaijus” by constructing giant robots of their own called “jaegers” that could in turn beat the kaijus at their own game. “Pacific Rim” doesn’t waste a whole lot of time setting up that premise, opting instead to dive head-first into a 17-minute-long prologue that serves as the perfect showcase for the action sequences to come: They will be loud, they will be fast, and they will almost always take place at sea or in the rain.
Now, I’m not some giant prude who can’t get behind a bunch of sound and fury signifying nothing — in fact, the entire summer movie season is devoted to films that operate as such — but “Pacific Rim” may be as close to too much of a good thing as we will see this summer. Sure, the special effects look fantastic, but man, what a headache. The score in “Pacific Rim” is even more relentless than the action, and the sound of twisted metal and howling mega-reptiles really start to grate on you over the course of the movie’s two-hour-plus running time.
That might be forgivable if the action occasionally let up so we could get to know some worthwhile characters but, with the exception of Charlie Day (as a Rick Moranis-type scientist who can hardly keep up with his own discoveries) and Rinko Kikuchi (as a “pilot” to one of the jaegers), everyone in the movie is a bland action figure in the making. It doesn’t help that the cast — made up of Charlie Hunnam (doing a commendable Taylor Kitsch impression, not a compliment), Idris Elba, Diego Klattenhoff and Clifton Collins, Jr. — is basically playing stock characters out of an old war movie, updated to a futuristic setting that itself pays homage to the rain-prone, neon-colored backdrop of “Blade Runner.”
Basically, “Pacific Rim” was made because somebody — Del Toro, perhaps? — posed the question, “What would it be like if the Iron Giant got in a fistfight with Godzilla?” It’s a defensible notion, and there is definitely an audience for it. In fact, I’m willing to bet that most people are willing to overlook the deficiencies of “Pacific Rim” and enjoy it entirely on that level. If that’s your style, “Pacific Rim” will have to do.
★★ (out of ★★★★)
Rated PG-13 for nonstop violence and occasional bad language. 131 minutes, 2013.
Director: Guillermo Del Toro. Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba.