Kaiju, Jaeger, you’ll most likely hear those words bandied about a lot this weekend. Hopefully you’ll hear it a lot from now on. What do they mean? They are but two of the characters, in the character laden big screen battle fest, Pacific Rim which opens this weekend. The film is the latest from monster lover, Guillermo Del Toro, and is a very big, very fun film that pretty much writes a love letter to geeks and fans of the old school man in suit films of TOHO studios and movies like Godzilla. Is it more than just robots and monsters? Is it any good? Get ready to suit up, and cancel any plans you had for the apocalypse.
Guillermo Del Toro has a love of monsters. It’s been apparent since his first few films, and has grown in films like Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth. Pacific Rim takes that love of monsters, and puts it right on his sleeve. This is every monster kids fantasy, and shows the work that the visionary director COULD HAVE done with a film he almost made “At the Mountains of Madness”.
Pacific Rim is a story about aliens invading earth, only, they don’t come from above, they come from a fissure in the bottom of the sea. A gateway from another dimension. They come in the form of huge beasts, that are called Kaiju, is Japanese and translates to literally Beasts of Mystery. Of course Kaiju is the name that we geeks have given the Japanese movie monsters, where men in rubber suits stomped around fake cities.
Mankind was essentially getting their collective asses handed to them, so they responded…collectively…by building Jaegers (pronounced YAY GER) which are huge robots that use a human pilot. The brilliance about the Jaeger is that it takes two pilots that have their brains synced together to control these huge robots. Not a lot of pushing levers and buttons, the pilots become the robots, and can feel the pain of damage. Jaegers are working, and help keep the Kaiju at bay, until the Kaiju start getting bigger and bigger and start coming with more frequency. The Kaiju also start learning the Jaegers weaknesses and start beating the hell out of them. That’s when the story picks up.
Humanity is losing the battle, and the Jaeger program is all but shut down. Walls are being built to keep the Kaiju out, and trying to keep them on the coast….let them have their fun, just leave us alone. More plots are revealed, and we find out that hope is pretty much lost, unless the last few Jaegers can come together and deliver a plan so crazy, that it just might work.
A lot of people are making comparisons between Transformers, because it has huge robots fighting, and Battleship because it takes place largely in the ocean, with aliens. They’re right, except there’s one huge difference. Those films aren’t very good. Let’s face it…they suck. Pacific Rim takes the fun of those films and pushes it one step further by giving it a story. It’s a story that is full of pomp and big speeches, but it’s a fun story. You feel for the characters, which is important, because they are the ones that you’re rooting for. The actors do a good job, but it’s Idris Elba and Ron Pearlman who steal the show. They play two different characters, with Elba doing his best war hardened, yet aware general. He’s aware that humanity is about to become extinct, and he’s hurt emotionally and physically by it. He’s lost a lot in this war, and can lose even more. Then there’s Ron Pearlman who has been a favorite of the director’s ever since his turn in Hellboy. He plays a black market dealer that deals in the highly profitable market of Kaiju remains. His Hannibal Chow is a role that he plays for laughs and is so much fun, you want to see a spin-off featuring him.
While the film deals with huge monster fights, and monsters destroying the city, the story has the underlying meaning of connection. Human kind only survives when two people have a strong bond. Some of the Jaeger pilots are cocky and full of themselves…and mistakes are made. It’s not until a strong bond is made, and they let someone literally into their head that things start changing. It’s a lot like life and love. Maybe Del Toro is telling us all we need to let each other in a little more, and make more connections with each other.
The movie moves fast, has big monsters and lots of robot on monster violence. It may be too scary for the little kids under five…but who doesn’t want a good monster fight?
Pacific Rim is now in theaters.