Pacific Rim is the awesome(ly predictable) spectacle you’ve (seen a hundred times) been waiting for.

movies-pacific-rim-poster-2This 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).

I'm surrounded by people yet so alone.  THIS IS SOME EXISTENTIAL HERO'ING SHIT, YOU GUYS.
I’m surrounded by people yet so alone.
THIS IS SOME EXISTENTIAL HERO’ING SHIT, YOU GUYS.

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.)

la_ca_0412_pacific_rim_071None 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.

PACIFIC RIMAnd 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.

You stand over there because this is my good side.
You stand over there because this is my good side.

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.

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16 thoughts on “Pacific Rim is the awesome(ly predictable) spectacle you’ve (seen a hundred times) been waiting for.

  1. Dear Cinesnark,

    I’m totally cool with your review; if everybody agreed all the time, we’d have a boring world.

    You’ll probably laugh at this, but I don’t know anybody else besides you who would actually know and be able to give me a straight answer.

    “Pacific Rim” took in $38 million on opening weekend, 3rd to two crappy sequels. It made something like, what, $91.3 million globally? They consider this a sad opening for Legendary.

    How much would the movie need to make in order to justify a sequel? A lot of people are hoping that word of mouth can help propel this movie into better box office.

    Like I said, you’ll laugh at this comment! But I’m genuinely approaching you as a movie insider who might know the score.

    1. Well the budget was $190M, so it’ll need in the neighborhood of $500-600M to break even. Doesn’t matter, though, because Legendary has already commissioned a sequel script from the screenwriter. Maybe they won’t go ahead with it since the numbers aren’t overwhelming, but seeing as they won’t *lose* money and they now have the CG models for the kaiju and jaegers–the most expensive part of the process–they could conceivably make a sequel for less than the first installment (haha, that never happens, though). They’ll probably go ahead and do it, they just might not be in a big rush to get there.

  2. I can’t disagree with anything in your review, and yet I really really enjoyed myself at this movie. I was surprised at just how predictable it was, but at a certain point I was just having such a great time that I didn’t care. All most all of the movies that I’ve seen this summer have been grim, so maybe I just enjoyed the break from all the despair.

    I’m also interested in its sequel prospects because I did sort of care about Mako and Hero McMaverick. I heard (on twitter, so…) that they were going to have a comic book continuation of the story, like the prequel comic they made.

  3. norjunma1

    Haven’t seen it…yet. It seems like you could parse it as an homage to old-school big robot anime, though. Think Voltron, Robotech, Neon Genesis Evangelion, or a score of others from the mecha genre, particularly from the 80’s and 90’s. That checklist–ridiculous names, convenient plot devices from out of nowhere, monsters designed to be killed in oh so obvious ways–sounds like it came right from a “how to write your own mecha manga” guide. Perhaps this is del Toro’s (big ol’ geek that he is) tip of the hat to a beloved sci-fi genre? Or maybe not.

    Either way I feel compelled to spend some loot on a movie ticket if only to support original (ahem) summer blockbuster movie making. So I don’t have to sit through another franchise installment with Dwayne Johnson. (But THEN what will he DO?)

    And of course, thanks for another awesome review.

    1. Oh I definitely think the silly names, et cetera, were a nod to manga and stuff like Heavy Metal and Evangelion. And jaeger names reminded me of how planes and bombs got names in World War II, like Big Betty and stuff. I think that was all deliberate. But there still wasn’t a single person/thing to care about and it was still the most predictable plot this side of Clifford the Big Red Dog.

  4. I didn’t even notice gypsy was misspelled, good grief. I agree with this review, I definitely wanted more character building especially for Raleigh and Mako. I think Mako’s stereotypical Asian chickness would’ve been more understandable if there was a reason for the hair and stuff. I feel like the movie would’ve been better if they had told a little of the story of how Raleigh got to be a pilot and then how he ended up leaving the program and working on the wall. Plus there was a lot they could’ve done with Mako and Idris Alba character’s backstory, how did their parent-child/hero worship relationship work? Why did he get to keep his job even after lying about his health which could’ve potentially dangered many lives? What happened to the person piloting with him, does he have all of their memories and last dying moments too? Why does he bring nothering into the neuro-drift? And the scientists! What was the deal with them? They obviously had really cool and interesting back stories too. Why was he so obsessed with aliens? What kind of life did the mathmatician have that he walked with a limp, had a serious social disorder, always had to be right, never had a hair out of place, and worked for the military? Also the legendary Red Typhoon or whatever the trio of Asian pilots were called, and the Russian brother-sister tag team from the start of the war–which was over ten years ago, right? Because the first part is seven years after the start and then it’s like another five years later that they bring Raleigh back–were brought down in five minutes. Which was ridiculous. I know one of them were destroyed because of acid but their fighting style seemed to lack experience and it really made me mad. It should’ve been an epic throw down till they breathed their last breath but they made it so their only reason for existing was to be rescued and then added to the list of what the war had cost everyone. I enjoyed the movie though, haha I really only went to see how America would do mecha warriors and they were pretty awesome so I got what I wanted from the movie. This comment ended up being a lot longer than I thought it would be, sorry!

  5. halabala

    I went to see the movie with my boyfriend, he took me to see Transformers 3, so I told him he would enjoy it, it is just like that, while I just secretly wanted to watch Charlie Hunnam and Idrid Elba being hereos on big screen. It was cheesy and it was loud, and I loved every minute of it. Most of the main characters were handsome manly men, and I felt like it is actually action movie aimed at girls, with Mako being super cool and all that. I’m thinking about buying it on dvd. Boyfriend hated the movie.

  6. plum

    I went to see PR because I thought, wow Guillermo del Toro plus Idris Elba – I should give it a shot. I am glad I supported the actors as I would like to see them all in more movies…but I was crazy by the end of the movie.
    1. Where were the jets that could just circle the breach and, i dunno, BLOW UP the kaijus from a safe distance when they emerged. Oh, i guess it makes more sense to use hand-to-hand combat with giant robots near cities than missiles out in the ocean. I agree that the robots made for cooler effects – but I needed at least ONE conversation or explanation why they couldn’t just blow them up. It was all I could think about.
    2. I’m sorry…did that really just say the year 2020??????? WTF? We are supposed to believe all that crazy technology ( in the lab with the screens moved by people’s hands, not to mention the “drift” itself) happens in the next SEVEN years? Why did they do that? Why not 2420 so it was a little tiny bit believable?
    3. The audience reaction was interesting to me. People (mostly young men, probably 17-25 range judging on them walking out) were cheering during the fights, really into it.
    I am just so over things being blown up/fighting sequences at this point, WITHOUT something else too, like the hilarious lines in iron man, like the touching friendship between spock and jim in star trek, etc. But from the audience at my show, it seems just blowing things up with awesome CGI is enough for a lot of people. I don’t want action movies to go anywhere…I just want to be invested in the story and not just watch a video game. And where I live, zero independent movies or small pictures make it to the screen, so in the summer I have slim pickings for movies.
    Sorry this is so long! i was only disappointed because i felt like there was a decent movie in there somewhere, it just wasn’t even attempted in favor of the (admittedly awesome) cgi. i want both! is that too much to ask?

  7. Kris

    Thank you for putting into words what I could not express. All I could say to my husband was “it was sooo bad!” (think Julianne Moore describing Twilight in Crazy Stupid Love). I didn’t care about a single character, except for maybe the bull dog. I thought the best acting was done by the little girl playing young Mako. If there’s a sequel, I’m sending my husband alone!

  8. syphie

    Yeah I completely agree with you Sarah. I could quote almost this entire movie seconds before the actual lines were spoken. Btw did you realize that the actor Kazinski was basically playing Top Gun’s Iceman … Whose name was Kazanski?!? Yeah these were the things I though about during the movie, plenty of time to notice useless stuff 🙂 in the end all I thought was: ‘Shouldn’t they die if they ascend to quickly from the deep waters?’

  9. Richard Papan

    Pacific Rim in a nutshell : Giant alien lifeforms from deep within the earths core get pooped out every so often through an asshole situated in the Pacific. For unknown reasons humans have decided that the best form of defense is to build giant robots for mostly melee combat which require two pilots to “drift” their brains togethor to operate them. Film inevitably ending with one huge explosion to fill the hole. Whole film was too predictable nothing more needs to be said., Gears of War could end up being a better film.

  10. I must be an anomaly. Well, if you’ve never been hated on, here goes.
    Pacific Rim was the greatest movie I have ever seen. I can’t see why people can’t connect to the characters, or why they think the story sucks. To me, I felt the feelings of all the characters. they moved me during their failures, and they filled me with joy and hope during their triumphs. In books of literary canon, many characters are mysterious and feel more like what they symbolize rather than characters themselves. But Pacific Rim didn’t complicate the audience with that, and they still ended up with immensely lovable characters who still grasped your feelings.

    1. Coco

      (sorry, pressed enter too soon)
      It sounds to me like you saw a young Asian woman and automatically assumed that she is fetishized. Just look at the costuming; the pilot uniforms are mostly gender-neutral *coughstartrekrebootcough* and none of her outfits/poses are over-sexualized. As for the ‘in love’ part, Guillermo del Toro said specifically in interviews that Mako’s not a love interest. Even going the “death of the author” route, Raleigh and Mako’s relationship can easily be read as simply camaraderie.

  11. Pingback: Godzilla is the movie I wanted Pacific Rim to be | Cinesnark

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