What’s it like to watch when you know a man’s gonna die? What about to share his brain and the feelings inside?
Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and his brother, Yancy (Diego Klattenhoff), were once as close as could be. Before Yancy was killed and swept away in the sea. You see, the brothers were a drifter pair, the modern rock stars in a not-so-future society: one where gigantic alien beasts called Kaiju can take down entire cities.
The first attack occurred in San Fran. And six days, 35 miles later, there was not one man — alive or standing in six nearby cities. But don’t you civvies worry: Jaegars got your back. That’s what they call Guillermo del Toro’s ginormous robotic hacks.
These soldiers are slick, modeled like transformers, but powered by men like double-A batteries. Which is why you need drifter pairs: two people working completely in sync, sharing a brain, to power even one of these enormous tin cans. There are several problems with this, but one of them is that humans have a pretty short shelf life — and the humans in “Pacific Rim” have less personality than… say, shape-shifting cars.
After Hunnam’s lulling voice narrates del Toro’s apocalyptic future and his brother’s grisly death (don’t worry, he doesn’t do it in either rhyme or iambic meter, although it doesn’t make it any less cheesy), he disappears for five years, becoming this world’s version of George R. R. Martin’s Night Watch — assigned to build an endless wall in the far north of Alaska that’s supposed to keep the aliens out. But it doesn’t. And as humanity sits on the losing side of the Kaiju War, his old boss, General Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), reenlists him into the fight.
Becket’s pretty useless without his brother, so they pair him up with new girl Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) to man his old Jaeger, Gipsy. And you might be able to guess what happens next. After all, drifter pairs share a brain and all.
While (the plot of) “Pacific Rim” may sound like another mindless summer blockbuster billed for its action and formulaic structure (remember “Battleship”?), composer Ramin Djawadi (you may know him as the orchestral composer to TV series like “Game of Thrones” and “Prison Break”) gives the movie a pulse. His music mirrors the loud thumping noises of a heartbeat in Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “A Tell-Tale Heart,” containing the steady, rhythmic beats of Shakespearean poetic meter. Or the thump-thump-thumps of a Kaiju’s or Jaeger’s footsteps; neither alien nor robot can move without creating earthquakes.
At times it’s like electronic dance music, keeping the party going. At other times, it’s much softer — weak, but kicking. But not even Djawadi’s music can keep the movie from submerging.
The screenplay, written by del Toro and Travis Beacham based on Beacham’s story, is so predictable that you can guess who’s going to die minutes before they do so. Del Toro and Beacham throw you plenty of clues, of course.
“The water’s getting higher,” says one drifter pair.
But this futuristic apocalypse doesn’t hold as much depth as del Toro’s WWII-era films. For one, despite their sheer size, aliens and robots are disappointing compared to the personalities of the freaks in “Hellboy” and the faun and Pale Male in “Pan’s Labyrinth.” At least those monsters could be scary. In contrast, the Kaiju/aliens in “Pacific Rim” look like watered-down Spielberg monsters; no, not E.T., but rather the shark in “Jaws” and the dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park.” There’s nothing wrong with that, per say, but we can’t help thinking we’ve seen this before.
And for the most part, we have. Like “Pan’s Labyrinth,” del Toro shows another little girl lost in a maze — only this maze is in her head: her traumatic memories.
But at least “Pacific Rim’s” entertaining if you don’t take it seriously. One of the film’s gags involves black marketer Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman, known for his stint as “Hellboy”) and his gold-tipped shoes. And other humorous fun involves “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s” Charlie Day as the overly enthusiastic Kaiju scientist, Dr. Newton Geiszler.
“Pacific Rim” may be another mindless summer blockbuster, but at least this one’s got a pulse, however faint it may be.
“Pacific Rim” was directed by Guillermo del Toro and written by del Toro and Travis Beacham.