Breathing new, expensive life into now-retro Japanese mecha films, Guillermo del Toro’s eighth directorial venture Pacific Rim squeezes every last drop of new CGI technology into a sci-fi doomsday spectacle – an overwhelming visual escapade unfortunately prioritising everything else to the bottom of the pile. With better acting seen in Mass Effect 3, Pacific Rim would be better off as a full-screen video game.
Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy director del Toro is significantly invested in Pacific Rim, having directed and produced the film, but also penning the screenplay from a childhood love of old Japanese kaiju and mecha films. Pacific Rim picks up in the middle of a global war, with the constant battle between human-operated colossal machines (Jaegers) and a race of gargantuan sea monsters (the Kaiju) gunning for certain doom to Planet Earth. The impressive Jaegers protect humanity as Power Rangers’ Zords meets Transformers’ Autobots, sporting names befitting a Melbourne Cup winner: Gipsy Danger, Crimson Typhoon, Striker Eureka (the Australian ‘bot, cringingly). It’s in the otherworldly creations of the not-so-retro Kaiju monsters that Guillermo’s true magic lies: multiple mouths, indeterminate size, suddenly revealed batwings.
The winning drawcard of Pacific Rim is, predictably, the genuinely kick-ass special effects, from the ornate details of the Jaeger machines to the seemingly-unbeatable Kaiju. The action sequences spin with the bewildering incredulity of video game or WWE fighting, but due to scale and 3D complexity, the action sequences are often hard to keep track of.
Unfortunately, del Toro’s dazzling effects are explosive bookends to some seriously painful stretches of mundane storyline and abominable acting. Relatively muddled accents deliver a predictable script, Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam is ludicrously banal as jock pilot Raleigh Becket and Rinko Kikuchi (Norwegian Wood) as would-be Jaeger pilot Mako Mori is painfully childish, playing Little Girl Lost with minimal charm. Idris Elba (The Wire) as leader Marshall Stacker Pentecost (actually his name) finds a momentary foothold with the best line of the film, the trailer-bait declaration “Today, we are cancelling the apocalypse.” Yippee. Kai. Yay.
An eye-shatteringly superb CGI-fest with half-baked trimmings, Pacific Rim would make a magnificent video game. All this reviewer wanted was to jump into a Jaeger and kick some Kaiju tail, but instead endured lengthy cut scenes, with no skip button in sight.
BY SHANNON CONNELLAN
Pacific Rim is in cinemas now.