It’s all about sequels in Hollywood these days so it’s hard for a brand new studio tent-pole movie to get the recognition it deserves.
And that’s exactly what will be Pacific Rim’s long-term downfall – even though it at least tries to provide something different for this summer’s blockbuster season.
The only problem when it opens close to the likes of already established franchises like Monsters University, Despicable Me 2 and Grown-Ups 2 in the UK and US – even with acclaimed director Guillermo Del Toro at the helm – it probably won’t make enough money to get the sequel it deserves.
Oscar-nominated Del Toro was the man behind 2006’s exceptional Spanish-language film Pan’s Labyrinth and the two generally critically-lauded Hellboy films (and was meant to direct The Hobbit), but he’s still not a big-enough name to the general movie-goer – and when your film hasn’t got a major A-list star, that makes it even harder.
Even with Brit stars Idris ‘Luther’ Elba and ex-EastEnders actor Rob Kazinsky, new Channing Tatum-a-like Charlie Hunnum, comic relief in the form of Charlie Day (Horrible Bosses) and a cameo from Del Toro mainstay, Ron ‘Hellboy’ Perlman providing decent turns – it’s undoubtedly the monsters versus robots story that was always going to be the main selling point.
Its plot – however implausible – is at least a fresh take on the sci-fi theme, as giant monsters rise from the oceans through an intergalactic vortex in the earth’s crust to consume the planet’s resources.
Known as the Kaiju, these relentless Godzilla-like beings are sent to the world’s major cities to trash as many buildings and kill as much human life as possible (to eventually inhabit the planet) before they are downed by the military – and for years they were extremely successful.
That is until humanity moved to ‘Plan B’ by building massive weapon-laden billion dollar robots, called Jaegers, to fight back against these hulking beasts – piloted by two people whose minds are interlocked by a neural bridge.
But even though these machines defended the planet for a number of years, the Kaiju are starting to evolve by sending even bigger and stronger creatures – and they’re now winning the war with an apocalyptic event now looking ever more prevalent.
Enter the stereotyped unlikely hero, washed-up former pilot Raleigh (Hunnam), who is thrown into the one of the last working Jaegers with untested Japanese rookie Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) – recruited by Lt Commander Stacker (Elba).
And even though it doesn’t quite get the balance between seriousness and humour quite right – its comedic characters like Day’s Dr Geiszler and Burn Gorman’s really annoying Dr Gottlieb sometimes uneasily change the tone on a six-pence – for the most part this is surprisingly good and sometimes quite inventive fun.
The dialogue (surprisingly for Del Toro) can also border a little on the generic side, along with the heroic storyline that has been played out in different formats before – but it does ultimately contain a lot of heart that adds an endearing quality.
The battles scenes and special effects are also infinitely more impressive and enjoyable than the likes of Transformers, or even the recent Man of Steel – and is one of the better recent 3D outings too.
One thing’s for sure, if next year’s Godzilla remake has picked up a thing or two from this admirable effort it wouldn’t go far wrong.
And with the versatile Elba putting in another stand-out performance – easily adding to his burgeoning Hollywood reputation – this really deserves (despite its flaws) to be a monster hit.
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rob Kazinsky, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman, Rinko Kikuchi, Max Martini, Clifton Collins Jr, Burn Gorman, Diego Klattenhoff, Robert Maillet, Heather Doerksen, Santiago Segura, Mana Ashida
Running Time: 2hrs 10mins
Directors: Guillermo Del Toro [youtube id=”5guMumPFBag” width=”600″ height=”350″]