This is one of those reviews where I know I’m in the minority and I know everyone will disagree but I’m going to give my honest review and let the chips fall where they may. I didn’t love Pacific Rim. I went in fully expecting to—wanting to—but I didn’t, couldn’t love it. This isn’t to say I hated it. I didn’t hate it. It’s not the dumbest movie I’ve seen this summer (White House Down), or the worst (The Lone Ranger). It just wasn’t nearly good as expected, and had one of the most predictable screenplays I’ve seen in a long time. Maybe ever.
I’m not holding being a dumb movie against Pacific Rim. I never thought it would be anything but dumb. I thought it would be director Guillermo del Toro’s take on a dumb movie, which is to say silly, yes, maybe even stupid, but engrossing and strange and entertaining like any del Toro movie. But it’s too stupid to buy into, and worse, it’s lazy. Del Toro clearly has a great love for the classic kaiju movies like Godzilla and Mothra, and he lovingly rendered every monster and robot with incredible detail—this is some of the most spectacular CGI you’ll see anywhere. But I wish he’d invested even a fraction of that care in just one character. I just needed one thing to care about in Pacific Rim but there was nothing.
We’re supposed to care about Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam, Sons of Anarchy), a character so cartoonishly derivative he might as well have been named Hero McMaverick (that name would totally have fit in the Pacific Rim universe).
Everything about Raleigh is short hand for “hero”. He’s blonde, he’s hot, he walks tough and flares his nostrils. He says things like, “I’m not that guy anymore,” and, “Out there, it’s not a simulation.” He’s surrounded by people like Herc Hansen (Max Martini, Revenge), a world-weary father who can’t connect with his asshole son (Robert Kazinsky, True Blood), who in turn butts heads with Raleigh because duh. And don’t get me started on Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi, Babel), the fetishized Asian chick in love with the white hero because DUH. (Although I did appreciate that they didn’t throw a titsy blonde at Raleigh, so I guess that’s a wash.)
None of this is the actors’ fault. They all do what they can with what they’ve got, which is practically nothing, but the acting is not a problem in Pacific Rim. It is, however, a problem that such a great group of actors is so wholly underserved. Poor Idris Elba—whose real-life name would have worked just as well as “Stacker Pentecost”—is relegated to pacing around and barking orders like “stay back!” and “hold the line!” only to be completely disregarded at every turn. I just can’t ignore that none of these people played an actual character. I can’t ding World War Z for lacking proper characters and then give Pacific Rim a pass because I wanted to like it more.
It’s just so predictable. It’s not a little bit predictable, or even familiar like a loving homage—Pacific Rim is, at every stage, entirely predictable like del Toro was working down a checklist of action movie tropes. At one point a particular kaiju appeared and I thought, “They’re going to pull that one apart by its jaws,” and then yep, that’s exactly what happened. That kaiju existed simply to be pulled apart by its jaws.
And therein is Pacific Rim’s biggest problem—things just exist. There’s never any reason given, and there’s no logical limit on what can be done. Fighting a kaiju and need a sword? Boom—your jaeger has a sword. Of course! Of course it does! People, monsters, swords—things just materialize because reasons, and nothing is ever accounted for. In the opening scene Raleigh’s half of the jaeger—oh yeah, it takes two people to pilot a jaeger because C’MON GUYS, IT TAKES TWO PEOPLE—is badly damaged and he is obviously injured via…I dunno, bio-feedback?…and he later mentions his arm is weak because of that incident, except he never acts like it. We see Raleigh brawling, we see him fighting with martial arts, but he never compensates like his arm is a weakness. Until, that is, he climbs back inside a jaeger and it’s convenient to say, “I’m taking this side, my arm is kind of shot.” And when Mako suffers the exact same injury that hurt Raleigh in the opening, she goes on like it’s nothing. There is zero reaction. There’s no consistency because stuff is just happening whenever it’s convenient or would look coolest with no regard to logic or character.
Raleigh Becket. Stacker Pentecost. Herc Hansen. Mako Mori. Hannibal Chau. Newt. Everyone in Pacific Rim had a batsh*t name created by a twelve-year-old playing Call of Duty. And that was actually okay. It became endearing after a while, this parade of insanely named non-people. The one that drove me nuts, though, was “Gipsy Danger”, Raleigh’s jaeger. All the jaegers had names but only Gipsy Danger registered. Why was it spelled like that?! Why GIP-sy?! That drove me crazy. And that pretty much sums up Pacific Rim. The movie was so predictable I could spend all my time wondering about a typo instead of being concerned for the heroes because the ending was never in question. Just the number of robot swords was.