There’s a remarkable ease to Pacific Rim that belies the extreme budget of it all. At the outset, we are given two definitions: Kaiju, which is Japanese for giant monsters, and Jaeger, which has a German background and stands for hunter. If you’re able to comprehend these simple terms then you are probably capable of comprehending the film itself. This isn’t complicated. Giant monsters rise from a rift between our world and another in the Pacific and we created giant robots to fend them off. In the hands of the visual genius of director Guillermo del Toro, a lot of fun is to be had with visual fireworks everywhere. As del Toro himself has said, his intention is to deliver an entertaining, light film and this is exactly what is on display.
Much of the playfulness and levity is directly sourced from the script, co-written by del Toro and Travis Beacham, who originally came up with the idea. Pacific Rim is about intimacy and shared connections; banning together to fight. Consider the way you pilot a Jaeger in general. The synaptic load is too much for a single pilot to handle by themselves, so they utilize a shared neural connection between two pilots called “the drift” that allows each pilot to control a single side of the robot, divided into right and left. Many can scoff at the drama being created by this plot device, yet it works. With a little suspension of disbelief about theoretical technology that doesn’t yet exist, we can simply allow this to flow and work its magic.
We jump from the first Kaiju attack to 10 years beyond within the 132-minute runtime and it’s a lot of ground to cover. Despite this, Pacific Rim satisfies by giving us enough information and intrigue to keep our attention between battles. The levity also helps, bolstered by Charlie Day, who plays a loose cannon of a doctor obsessed with how the Kaiju work. At certain points he is splintered off in the film and it nicely balances the drama of the battles with his humorous acting and delivery. Meanwhile Idris Elba plays the marshal in charge of the Jaeger program and every line delivery feels like a work of art.
Rinko Kikuchi plays one of the few females in the film (there’s a notable lack of them throughout) but can handle her own in combat. She’s the tough chick cliché at times, but you never feel the film is pandering at all. She’s a woman, but while Hunnam has his shirt off numerous times we rarely glimpse much of her in any way at all. She’s here to be a soldier, not eye-candy.
Ultimately, Pacific Rim stands as a beacon of action blockbusters. Not for its intricate plot or inspiring characters. Instead, Guillermo del Toro has delivered a film that simply works with simplicity at its heart.