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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jul 15, 2013

Pacific Rim Movie Review: Robots Versus Monsters

GUILLERMO DEL TORO (“Hellboy”, “Pan’s Labyrinth”) is obviously a big fan of Japanese monster movies like “Godzilla” and “Mothra”. His “Pacific Rim” is a tribute of sorts to the Kaiju (Japanese monsters), but he magnified them to make them bigger than ever before. They come from a trans-dimensional rift under the Pacific Ocean and, to fight them, various countries pooled their resources to put up the Jaeger, monstrous nuclear-powered robots that try to eclipse the Transformers, operated by two human pilots inside who work like puppeteers and whose thoughts and memories should be properly aligned.

This is one fantasy movie where size really does matter. It could also very well be a video game titled “Robots Versus Monsters”. The final aim of the Jaegers is to close up the glowing deep-sea rift or portal where the Kaijus originate and this is where the film’s climactic epic battle takes place.

The human characters are sadly not as interesting as the Kaijus and the Jaegers. They are played by Charlie Hunnam as the pilot Raleigh Becket, whose former co-pilot is his own brother who died while they were battling Kaijus in the film’s prologue. He disappears for five years but is recruited once more by their commander Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) for a new project after it’s proven that a defensive wall being built to ward off the Kaijus is ineffective. This time, he chooses to be partnered with Mako Mori (played by Japanese actress Rinku Kikuchi of “Traffic”), a tyro who turns out to have some very personal issues against the Kaiju and also happens to be Stacker’s foster daughter.

The thing we really admire in this movie is the production design that gives us some stunning visuals. For instance, the Jaeger central headquarters in Hongkong is an awesomely enormous cavern full of high tech equipment and gizmos. It’s very impressively designed.

Del Toro must really love his “Hellboy” actor Ron Perlman who plays a good role here as Hannibal Chau, the flamboyant dealer in Kaiju body parts. He’s actually one of the more interesting characters in the movie. He is eaten alive by a Kaiju, but don’t leave the theatre right away once the end credits are shown as he’ll make another surprise appearance. All the other characters are familiar elements. The hero should have a rival, and here, it’s someone with an Aussie accent, and they even figure in a fistfight because the rival humiliates the leading lady with whom the hero is already enamoured. There are also two nerdy lab scientists (Charlie Day and Burn Gorman) who always try to upstage each other. But just like the hero who later reconciles with his rival who, in turn, sacrifices his life for the sake of humanity, the goofy scientists also team up to study the brains of a subdued Kaiju.

The sad thing is that we don’t really get to care for any of them. The script often takes itself too seriously and is devoid of any sense of fun, despite the presence of the two bumbling scientists who aren’t really hilarious at all.

Big cities are once again shown being destroyed and demolished. Manila is mentioned in passing but is not actually shown, unlike Sydney where the Kaijus are shown about to attack the famous Opera House landmark. As an action extravaganza of the U.S. summer, no doubt the action and destruction scenes which are executed with big-budget special effects, will please kiddie viewers reared on mindless video games. But honestly, after a while, the sight of the Jaegers and Kaijus mercilessly pummelling each other becomes boring and monotonous after a while. It doesn’t help that most of their fierce encounters happen in the dark or in close up shots or while it’s raining and their submerged in water. You don’t get a real awesome sense of magnitude of the fighting Jaegers and Kaijus, making it all really quite a cumbersome spectacle.