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Fan Review: 'Pacific Rim'

Posted Monday, July 15, 2013 at 5:06 PM Central
Last updated Monday, July 15, 2013 at 5:21 PM Central

by John Couture

We are back with another great fan review. This time, long-time friend of the site Steve Valeri checks in with his thoughts on this past weekend's sci-fi extravaganza Pacific Rim.

You might remember Steve for his graphical contributions to this story on the top box office performers of the first half of 2011. We appreciated his work back then and when he reached out to us this morning with a review of Pacific Rim, we were only too happy to oblige.

I'll be honest, I haven't been as up on Pacific Rim as I probably should be. I like to blame existing and impending fatherhood (it's an excuse I throw around a lot, I know), but the real reason for me hesitancy in this film is probably all of the Godzilla failures over the years and my increasing distaste of all things Transformers.

The one saving grace of this film though is, of course, the involvement of Guillermo del Toro and how he will apply his unique vision to this action-heavy film. It seems that Steve was impressed and that gives me hope that when I am able to finally see this film, I will be able to give it the benefit of the doubt.

But enough from me, I'm hogging all of Steve's limelight. Without further ado, his fan review of the film Pacific Rim.

Pacific Rim

Hollywood’s current summer blockbuster blueprint leaves little room for my inner child. Sure, there are some younger elements to hits like Iron Man 3, Star Trek, and Man of Steel, but ultimately movie-makers need enough serious themes for adult audiences to pay attention. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but every once in a while I’d like to be treated to pure, childish, fun. So, when Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim invaded theaters, I attended with the hope of just that. Plus, in a time chock-full of sequels, prequels, and threequels, I enjoy throwing my money at something original and un-franchised (yet).

The premise of Pacific Rim isn’t entirely groundbreaking, at least figuratively. In a near-future Earth, monsters called Kaiju (think Godzilla) rise up from a portal in the Pacific Ocean to eat coastal cities for breakfast. In response, mankind has assembled large fighting robots (Jaegers), piloted by two humans, to take down any attacking Kaiju. Our protagonist, Raleigh (played by Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam), is an ex-Jaeger pilot who is summoned back into active duty in a last ditch effort to rid the world of the Kaiju. End-of-the-world stuff.

This really could have gone the wrong way. After all, when stripped down Pacific Rim is little more than a monsters vs. robots action spectacle. One step in the wrong direction and you’re looking at an in-theaters version of Sharknado or some other horrible SyFy Channel movie. Luckily, del Toro is a particularly talented director, with a creative eye and an appreciation for the monster movies that came before his. His action pieces are filmed in a way that the grandeur of what’s happening is never lost. You can both see and feel the battles. In an era of CGI overload, we too often become desensitized to action and scope.

The biggest success of the film is that the heartbeat of Pacific Rim lies with its humans. Take note, Michael Bay. The ensemble of Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Max Martini, Robert Kazinsky, and a hilarious Charlie Day bring urgency to the monstrous conflict. In that sense, it has a very Independence Day-feel to it. There may be a fair amount of cheesy one-liners and apocalyptic wartime clichés, but rooting for the characters becomes instinctive. Idris Elba even channels his inner Bill Pullman in a rousing speech before the movie’s climax. Cue fist pump.

What it lacks in substance, del Toro makes up for in flair - a worthy modern day addition to the monster genre with enough of a human touch to keep an audience engaged. Pacific Rim offered the first chance this year to truly retreat back to the enjoyable confines of childhood.