After having watched Pacific Rim, the hands down best true "blockbuster" of summer 2013, it's hard not to picture writer/director Guillermo del Toro sitting down and writing not so epic filmmaker Michael Bay a letter with only one sentence required - This is how you do it.
Yep, this is how you make a true summer blockbuster that's bigger and badder and more fun and more loud while still being well written, well constructed, well acted and containing ample doses of that absolute "wow" factor.
I'm most assuredly not saying that Pacific Rim is the best film of the summer, but it most assuredly is the best blockbuster-styled film in a summer that has largely seen superheroes dominating the box-office. Do you remember how Brad Pitt talked about wanting to make a better blockbuster?
He didn't. Guillermo del Toro did.
If you're thinking to yourself there's no need to see this film because the trailers have danced a little too close to Transformers land, you should think again.
Pacific Rim is vastly superior in every way.
To the filmmakers who think you can't intelligently create a cinematic adventure in plain ole' dumb fun, Guillermo del Toro says "This is how you do it."
To the filmmakers who are all too frequently willing to compromise performance in favor of over-the-top CGI, Guillermo del Toro says "This is how you do it."
To the filmmakers, I'm lookin' at you M. Night, who still can't figure out how to shoot 3-D imagery in dark scenes, Guillermo del Toro says "This is how you do it."
I half expected Montell Jordan to show up.
While I can't help but think that Pacific Rim is going to play well with anyone who's a hardcore fan of the sci-fi/tech/monster/big budget action styled films, if you also fancy yourself a hardcore geek with an awareness of classic movie monster cinema this film is going to leave you absolutely breathless both intellectually and as a full-on sensory experience.
This is yet another film where mankind is facing extinction with the immensely larger than life threat not having come from the skies but from deep within a portal in the Pacific Ocean. Known as Kaiju, these monstrous creatures are from another dimension and they are absolutely bent on completely dominance. Several familiar cities are flattened and the governments of the world are pretty much powerless until the decision is made to create monsters to confront the monsters. The man-made monsters, known as Jaegers, are operated by hotshot warriors including the team from the film's prologue, brothers Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) and Yancy Beckett (Diego Klattenhoff). Unfortunately, the Jaegers aren't overwhelming successful and before long the project is shelved in favor of an immense wall. Down but not out, the Jaeger Program's director, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), takes the program underground and goes about creating Jaegers for that inevitable day when the wall project fails. He recruits Raleigh to come back, but Raleigh will only do so if his choice of co-pilot is honored, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi).
Well all kinda sorta know where this is all going, but del Toro is far too good of a writer/director to make it all fit the formula nicely. While there's no question that Pacific Rim is a tip o' the hat to classic monster cinema, it's also a unique vision and creation all its own. It's perhaps a bit surprising just how perfectly Hunnam and Kikuchi fit together, their chemistry both exciting and emotionally resonant. Idris Elba finally lands a part that will show America just how good he really is, while del Toro has even cast the film's supporting players to near perfection.
Frequent del Toro collaborator Ron Perlman has an awesome extended cameo, while Charlie Day and Burn Gorman give the film a lightness that fits perfectly as a couple of off-kilter scientists who spend all their time arguing about how to stop the Kaiju. Clifton Collins Jr. offers his usual solid performance as Stacker's assistant, and Max Martini and Rob Kazinsky shine as an Australian father-son team of Jaeger pilots.
Pacific Rim is that rare live-action film that actually justifies catching it in 3-D or, even better, on IMAX. The film is meant to be a larger than life and awe-inspiring experience and del Toro does a magnificent job of immersing his audience in the action. There will be times when you find yourself reflecting upon the Transformers films, though the film's steampunk-inspired interior probably owes more to classic Hollywood and the criminally under-appreciated The Iron Giant along with a gleeful dose of that old children's game "Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots."
Pacific Rim isn't flawless. Ramin Djawadi's original score is occasionally a bit too bombastic and the creatures themselves are at times a bit too redundant and may prove a bit mind-numbing for folks not quite accustomed to this kind of filmmaking.
These are minor flaws, however, and it's hard to picture too many folks going into the film not knowing full well what they're getting themselves into from point one.
Finally, the real summer blockbuster is here. Pacific Rim puts the super back in hero and the "wow" back in 3-D filmmaking.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic