It’s been a few days now since I screened “Pacific Rim,” and I believe the danger of my ears spontaneously bleeding from the 131 minutes of pounding, grinding decibel levels is beginning to subside.
Director Guillermo del Toro unleashes unprecedented, numbing action in the skies, on the earth, in the seas, and below the earth's crust through a magma-coated portal on the Pacific floor that has opened, providing egress for alien creatures to emerge and try to dominate the earth following in the ponderous footsteps of their pioneering predecessors, the dinosaurs. Whew! I think that just about does it.
Of course, humanity does not want “to go gentle into that good night,” so what do you do? Well, to fight monsters, you create monsters — gigantic robots bristling with weaponry that requires two humans to pilot the colossal machines.
Why two pilots? Well, to put it simply, the operation is just too intense and too much of a drain for one. There’s a trick to this, however, because the two pilots must participate in what is known as a “mental handshake” (it’s kind of like a Vulcan mind-meld) where they literally tap into one another’s brains. While working as one, each controls a separate hemisphere of the machine. Cool, huh? It would be if there was a little more to the human side of the story.
Oh, the filmmakers tease us with some really good stuff, but they just can’t resist jamming in more Transformers–like, thrashing mayhem. It’s exhausting.
I wanted more of the story of the pilots, including a young Asian woman, Mako (Rinko Kikuchi), who ends up operating an antiquated machine with Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam), a veteran but “damaged,” warrior, in a last-ditch effort to save the planet. There are some fun side characters who border on cartoonish, but it’s such a relief from the pummeling thrill scenes that you’re willing to forgive their excesses. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman star as nerdy scientists who are advising those on the front lines, and their efforts just might be the key to an ultimate win.
Here’s the bottom line: “Pacific Rim” delivers spectacular special effects and compelling characters on too short a development leash, a fatigue factor that starts to undermine the off-the-charts action and too much similarity to so many other films (picture Godzilla vs. Transformers). How many times have we seen creatures, machines, superheroes — just fill in the blank — slam each other into buildings with city-destroying results? Plus, this movie is just too long.
“Pacific Rim” requires 131 minutes of your life and a post-viewing hearing test. I’m giving it 2 ½ stars, and it’s rated PG-13.