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Laramie Movie Scope:
Pacific Rim

Giant monsters versus giant kung-fu robots

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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July 14, 2013 -- This movie has what another recent apocalyptic movies, like “World War Z,” and “This is the End” lacked -- character development. It helps a lot that this particular film, “Pacific Rim” is directed by a first-class director, Guillermo del Toro (“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”) who also co-wrote the screenplay with Travis Beacham. The quality of the writing and directing shows in this project.

This film is a mixture of popular action genres, with robots, mind-melding, romance, kung-fu and Godzilla-style monsters. The heroes of this story aren't just fearless he-men, there is also a woman hero, and two nerdy heroes with brains. Although there is plenty of action and testosterone in the story, the characters have feelings other than anger and aggression. There is a nice mix of elements here.

The story has to do with a portal from another world which opens up deep under the ocean at the Pacific Rim. Out of it come fearsome giant monsters called Kaiju which attack people and cities, causing catastrophic destruction. The term Kaiju is a clear nod to Japanese horror films like “Gojira” (AKA Godzilla). Kaiju means “strange creature” in Japanese, but it has also been used to label a whole category of films featuring monsters like Godzilla, Mothra, Gamera and Rodan. This film is in the same tradition as those earlier films.

In response to the threat of the Kaiju, the countries of the world band together to create giant robots to fight the Kaiju. These robots are called Jaegers (the German word for hunters). They are controlled by two people inside the head of the robot, connected to each other and the robot by a mental link. This enables the two operators to work as one with the robot. At first, the Jaegers are successful in defeating the Kaiju, but the Kaiju start evolving and adapting, defeating the Jaegers and thereby threatening humanity with extinction.

In a last ditch effort to stop the Kaiju, a plan is devised to set off a bomb in the undersea portal in an attempt to seal the breach and stop the Kaiju from coming through into this world. Two of the top scientists devising the plan disagree, however. Dr. Newton Geizler (played by Charlie Day of “Horrible Bosses”) disagrees with the approach favored by his colleague, Dr. Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman of “The Dark Knight Rises”). Geizler favors a biological approach to the problem -- mind-melding with one of the monsters to learn its secrets, while Gottlieb favors a purely mathematical approach.

The main character in the story is Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam of “Children of Men”). He was a Jaeger pilot until his co-pilot brother is killed on a mission by a Kaiju. Becket is recruited by the head of the Jaeger program, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba of “Prometheus”) to operate a Jaeger involved with the mission to destroy the undersea portal. He becomes paired with co-pilot Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi of “Norwegian Wood”) a woman who is Pentecost's protégé.

There is a rivalry between Becket and another Jaeger operator, Chuck Hansen (Robert Kazinsky of “Red Tails”). The relationship between the mysterious Jaeger leader, Pentecost, Mori and Jaeger is an interesting one. Pentecost (a name with heavy religious significance) is probably the most interesting character in the movie, combining the traits of toughness, wisdom, independence and compassion. He is fiercely private, as well. Idris Elba gives a very strong performance as Pentecost.

Guillermo del Toro, who directed the Hellboy movies, brings back his Hellboy star, Ronald Perlman for this film. Perlman plays a funny renegade animal dealer with the unlikely name of Hannibal Chau. This film takes a pretty serious approach to the story, but there is some humor in the mix as well. Perlman, Gorman and Day provide the bulk of the film's comic relief. While this is not a believable film, it is well-made and entertaining. It rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2013 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)