Holy Crap I Loved Pacific Rim

By Adam Savage

Pacific Rim is how your childhood memory remembers the great Japanese monster movies of yesteryear, with all the same awe and fantastic spectacle of an amusement ride times ten. It's a freaking fantastic film.

Remember when you were really young and you saw your first Japanese monster movie? Remember how much you were in awe of such an unbelievable, fantastic spectacle? How magical it was to your young brain? Then remember when a few years later, you saw them again, but this time you were older, and wiser, and you saw how truly cheesy those movies and their special effects were. How the magic had gone. You couldn't believe that you'd fallen for that pap. But fall you did.

Pacific Rim is your childhood memory of how great those films were, how much they filled you with wonder. It brings the magic back.

It's a freaking fantastic film.

It's an amusement park ride times ten. It's exciting, exhausting, exhilarating, and funny to boot. Holy crap I loved it.

I saw Guillermo Del Toro's new film Pacific Rim last night. Now let me just begin this post by stating my conflict-of-interest bona-fides at the outset: Guillermo is a friend of mine. So are several members of its incredible effects team at ILM. I've even met Charlie Day and Ron Perelman once each (Charlie is shorter than me, Ron is shorter than I thought, though still taller than me). Given all that, one could certainly conclude that I'd be biased as to the quality of this film.

I'm going to rave about it nonetheless. [Note: Adam's review is spoiler-free.]

Look, it's got everything you've seen in the trailer: giant, 250-foot tall robots fighting hand to hand against similarly sized monsters from another dimension, called Kaijus. And that stuff is great, incredible even. I'm here to tell you that this film also has a great story, resonant performances, and a tangibly and meticulously detailed world, set slightly in our future, ravaged by the monsters our heroes spend the film fighting. It's got love, loss, monsters and giant robots. What more can you ask?

How about great characters? Idris Elba is the Jaeger program's fearless leader, and he's always great. He makes any film he's in better. New leading man Charlie Hunnam (from the dark and excellent Sons of Anarchy) imbues our hero, Raleigh Becket with every bit the cocky-charisma-removed-by-tragedy-and-replaced-by-toughness-soon-to-be-augmented-by-newfound-respect-and-tenderness hero you could want. Rinko Kikuchi's dark-with-a-secret Mako Mori is our unexpected heroine, and a (refreshing) regular feature of Guillermo's films: a strong, intelligent, beautiful woman with a dark past and a deep river of self-confidence to draw from. Charlie Day (from Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and Ron Perelman (Hellboy!) both add a comedic touch to our ragtag band of last-hope-of-the-earth monster fighters.

And the monsters are (I'm running out of adjectives) awesome. They start out that way, and they only get better (and tougher to beat).

They come from a dimensional rift deep in the Pacific ocean. With a terrifying frequency, the Kaiju appear from this rift and make landfall, sometimes on one side of the ocean, sometimes on the other. But all the time leaving a wide swath of death and destruction in their wake, until they're brought down. First they're brought down by conventional military means, but only at a heavy cost in terms of time and loss of life.

As the film begins, we learn that the nations of the world banded together and joined forces to defeat the menace, much in the way that the US galvanized every possible citizen toward the war effort during the second world war. They built the Jaegers, monsters to defeat monsters. 25-story tall fighting machines that are so complex, they need to be wired into the brains of their operators. This is a neural load so taxing, it must be split between two operators. The operators share the operational load of the giant Jaegers, wired directly into their cerebral cortex. They also share each other's fighting styles, memories, fears and emotions, all through a very cool process called “drift space”:

Each nation has built it's own Jaegers, and uses it's own pilots to contribute to the effort. A lovely touch is that each Jaeger has the visual characteristics of it's national identity: The Russian Jaeger is green, drab, quite military and arcane looking, yet clearly built for business. You know how the Russian space program hardware looks kinda like NASA's, but a little more, shall we say working class? It's like that.

The Japanese Jaeger looks exactly what you'd expect it to look like. Shiny red lacquer and Gundam/samurai-like. And so on. The pilots who operate these mechs also wear armor inside their control pods, and like the outer shell of the Jaegers, this inner armor adds another aesthetic dimension to the tech. It also illustrates how rough the fighting can be on the Jaeger's human braintrust.

The crew responsible for Pacific Rim's beautiful armor (led by Shane Mahan) cut their teeth perfecting Tony Stark's many iterations of Iron Man suits for Legacy Effects work on the many Iron Man films. They know their stuff. I could go on for a long time about all the insane and gorgeous nitty-gritty details in every aspect of this film. Did I mention how great the 3D is? And the digital effects? AND how they used actual miniatures to great effect?

Most of all, I think you should run to see it. And glory in its fantasy. How it engenders a child's sense of wonder; a rare gift from a master at the top of his game. It is an all-too-rare thing these days. A real genre film with a true heart. I can't wait to take my boys. We're going to see it in IMAX.

Adam out.