Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) is a creative and technically gifted filmmaker whose imagination inclines towards the fantastical. His newest project, Pacific Rim, is a full-on global apocalypse that is an inspired — and surprisingly touching — tribute to all those schlocky Japanese sci-horror movies with rubber monsters breathing fire and laying waste to badly-constructed models of Tokyo.
In del Toro’s update, set slightly in the future, a tectonic shift on the ocean floor has opened up a “portal” from which occasionally emerge 150-foot monsters named Kaiju – dinosaur-ish creatures that are nightmares of destruction.
In response, the nations of Earth unite to build equally gigantic Jaegers, robots controlled by a pair of pilots who do a mind meld in order to share “the neural load” required to manipulate these hulking humanoid machines.
In the opening minutes of Pacific we meet Raleigh Becket and his brother, a pair of legendary Jaeger pilots on a mission near Alaska. But when the brother is unexpectedly killed the grief-stricken Raleigh walks away from the battle.
Jump ahead five years, and the head of the Jaeger program, Stacker Pentecost (the great Idris Elba, most famous as Stringer Bell on The Wire), comes looking for Raleigh.
The Kaiju have been evolving and getting stronger, while politicians have sidelined the Jaeger program in favour of building massive walls to protect all the cities in the Pacific Rim region. And when it becomes clear that the giant walls aren’t working, Stacker implements a desperate do-or-die scheme to end the Kaiju threat permanently. In other words: Get ready to rumble!
Despite destruction on an almost unimaginable scale, several well-drawn characters — to say nothing of romance blossoming between Raleigh and his sexy new co-pilot — effectively counterbalance all the CGI-heavy visuals. Your heart will be in your mouth during one extended, marvelously directed sequence where a terrified little girl wearing one red shoe flees a rampaging Kaiju. And there is lots of comic relief, especially from Ron Perlman (Hellboy) as a slimy black marketer, and two science geeks working for Stacker who have clashing styles of nerdery.
Sure the movie is silly, but del Toro is an artist — one who paints an unexpectedly beautiful portrait of global destruction. There’s a Blade Runner meets Godzilla aesthetic at work some of the time, and even the grotesque monsters leave trails of cerulean blue bioluminescence when underwater. Pacific, although not to all tastes, is an epic serving of summer cinema fun.
PACIFIC RIM ★★★½
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba and Rinko Kikuchi
R -131 minutes
Continues at the Odeon, SilverCity, Westshore and Empire Uni 4
After a tense two hours watching Jaeger robots and Kaiju monsters battle for planet Earth, it’s time for a tasty sci-fi cocktail (unless, that is, you’re heading home to play with your Godzilla and Mothra action figures). To chill out with the Solar Flare, pour 45ml of tequila, 90ml of fresh orange juice, and 30ml of peach schnapps into an ice cube-filled cocktail shaker prior to straining into a fancy glass and adding a dash of Grenadine. Cheers!
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