If your childhood fantasy was to watch Godzilla fight a Transformer for two hours, "Pacific Rim" will make all of your wildest dreams come true (especially in IMAX). But if you're looking for a movie with plot, logic, interesting characters or intelligible dialogue, this one might lead you into nightmare territory.
"Pacific Rim" is a great, lumbering ox of a movie, possibly the single loudest film I have ever attended. It may feel simplistic to call this movie "Godzilla vs. the Transformers," but that's about all you need to know. About 75 percent of the film consists of CGI boxing matches between 10-story robots and mega-dinosaurs that want to stomp all over our cities. Everything else is just filler.
But if you insist on a set-up:
"Pacific Rim" is set far into the future, several years after massive lizards called Kaiju started crawling up out of the Pacific Ocean and attacking Earth's cities. Humanity responded by building 10-story robots called Jaegers that would get in fist fights with them whenever they'd get too close to shore. "Fighting monsters with monsters" is the way they put it, I think.
Initially the invaders only came one at a time. But as "Pacific Rim" opens, fast-talking, highly-agitated scientists have discovered that the planet is on the verge of a major dinosaur invasion, and so the Jaegers are rallied to make humanity's last stand. Most of the characters involved are little more than cannon fodder, except for Jaeger pilot Raleigh Becket (played by Charlie Hunnam), who lost his brother to one of the Kaiju and now has issues with authority.
If you can accept this, awesome. Have fun, and enjoy your reinforced bass. And to be fair, the 3-D isn’t too bad.
But if your brain starts asking questions, watch out. Don't let it ask you why the best response to the threat was to build slow-moving robots instead of, say, better long-range bombs. And definitely don't let your brain ask you why they put the pilots inside the robots instead of operating them remotely. Maybe the wireless programs of the future are just as overpriced as they are today?
It's tempting to dismiss "Pacific Rim's" excesses by claiming "summer blockbusters are supposed to be big and dumb and loud," but the film shows enough flashes of potential (such as the “neural handshake” pilots use to operate the Jaegers) that I was left wishing director Guillermo del Toro had given us a little more here. Or at least forced his actors to enunciate all their dialogue. The advent of the Kaiju Era must have had a traumatic effect on humanity, because most everyone in "Pacific Rim" spits out their lines in such a hasty fashion that they must be expecting death at any moment.
It's possible the film has a very good plot, but with so much of the dialogue lost in erratic delivery or under the weight of the bass-rumbling soundtrack, we’ll never really know for sure. Maybe the DVD subtitles will help.
Still, if you have to lump "Pacific Rim" into the overblown CGI genre with the "Transformers" franchise, you must admit del Toro's film offers a couple improvements over Michael Bay's trilogy. First of all, the overbearing volume is in the lower register, so you won't leave the theater with a headache. Second, since the good guys are robots and the bad guys are dinosaurs, it's a lot easier to tell who you're supposed to be cheering for during the extended battle sequences.
As a tribute to the Godzilla/King Kong genre, “Pacific Rim” isn’t too bad. But after seeing the “Jurassic Park” re-release a few months back, it is hard not to be reminded of what a summer blockbuster should be.
"Pacific Rim" is rated PG-13 for continual CGI action violence, some gross-out Kaiju gore and sporadic profanity. While it's thin on content that would be considered offensive, it's not a movie for small children. A couple sitting in front of me brought an infant to the IMAX press screening. The kid lasted about 15 minutes.
Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist who appears weekly on the "KJZZ Movie Show" and also teaches English Composition for Salt Lake Community College. You can see more of his work at www.woundedmosquito.com.