It Came From the Sea
What the late creature maestros Ishirō Honda and Ray Harryhausen would have made of this Japanese-affected robots versus monsters movie is anyone’s guess, but it’s dedicated to them regardless. That tribute includes Guillermo del Toro’s reliance on pixels in place of men in suits and stop-frame animation. Perhaps they wouldn’t give a shit, reasoning they’d have used the same were the technology available; it makes for an impressive spectacle, providing a sense of scale, only failing to replicate the charm those artists brought to their respective pictures, but you can’t have everything. Still, Pacific Rim has an old spirit to go with its modern gloss. Had it humanity we might have had the blow out of the summer; instead it’s one of the best designed, marrying del Toro’s guignol approach to storytelling with his trademark aesthetic.
Perhaps we should just be grateful that a director with any kind of artistic sensibility took this on. Pacific Rim, after all, is Hollywood’s tombola approach to high concept at its most egregious. For every big budget monster movie like Godzilla and Cloverfield, there’s been a thousand more we’ve forgotten, while Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise has shown that audiences will pay through the nose to see giant robots smash each other, no matter how crude and addled the screenplay. Guillermo del Toro is a stylist not a dramatist, he doesn’t have any more idea than Bay how to animate human beings to the point where a simulacrum of discernable emotion and depth of personality would be possible, but in Pacific Rim he just about gets away it, keeping the character content light and snappy, bridging the moments between the marquee colossi confrontations.
It may be a necropolis for characterisation but del Toro’s flick has an abundance of well-orchestrated and nicely detailed action – a robot fist tears through a building, nudging a desk and setting off a Newton’s Cradle, while another destroys a dock causing a bird to gently take off – with similar levels of attention lavished on the movie’s plot; zany to be sure but at least writer Travis Beacham cared enough to join the dots. Don’t knock it, it’s a rare show of respect these days.
In a movie where the most convincing performance comes from a frightened 10 year old girl, the likes of Idris Elba and Robert Kazinsky floundering in underwritten roles, it’s tempting to write this off as another blockbuster that’s splashed the cash but neglected the fundamentals. However, despite the conspicuous lack of star power and the film’s tick box approach to generating conflict between the endangered homo sapiens, Pacific Rim has sufficient momentum and enough eye catching design to rouse the senses, though a mind meld with the audience would have told del Toro that their brains would appreciate a look-in next time around.