My friend, perhaps you have noticed: it is hot. Terribly so. You must escape. Your outdoor lifestyle, the beach, the pool, these things are crowded and stifle your air. You must go to the ice box of the theater, yes, and when you do, you must do yourself a favor: this time, bet against your summer action fatigue and go see Pacific Rim. Pay the 3D prices, consider springing for the IMAX upgrade. I know, I know, you're one of those people who's been burned before. We've all been there, my friend. You used to like the idea of titans battling one another on city streets, of Godzilla-like mutated monsters emerging from the ocean, but the disasters just got too noisy, the plots too incomprehensible. Things have been bleak, haven't they? The Man of Steel pounds through skyscrapers and lets the innocent die, Transformers is just a long commercial for the American auto industry...you don't even know how to explain the events depicted in Battleship. You're tired, my friend. Weary. Jaded. Your entertainments do not entertain, but belittle and pummel, they drain you of your strength and kill brain cells in the hundreds. My friend, Pacific Rim is a treatment for this. A salve, a balm, perhaps. Not a cure, no, but something to help partially restore your waning faith in the standalone summer blockbuster.
Pacific Rim plays with the operable cliches of its mutated sci-fi chromosomes and goes big on the battles, but for real reasons. The premise is that Earth has long been trying to stave off an intruding race of alien beings who emerge -unexpectedly and with the force of natural disasters - from the ocean floor. The beings are massive, monstrous organic destroyers the humans have named "kaiju" (Japanese for Giant Beast), and though their exact point of entry has been identified, closing it has proved impossible. The film offers up a well-executed, slick prologue explaining the state of the couple decades since the first attack. We learn that the most successful military program (and the one safest for the continuation of human life) had been to build armored robot-like vehicles as large as the kaiju themselves. The machines are called Jaegers, and though they sell action figures, they are weaponized-vehicles first and not characters in the conventional sense of the term. Jaeger pilots work in teams and are hooked into one another's neural paths to merge and control the devices more effectively, and as they save cities in the most bad ass way imaginable: they are pop cultural rock stars. Our point of entry into the story is one such pilot, Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam), a shaggy-haired good guy who cut his career short when he experienced his brother's death by Kaiju during a merged battle. The stakes, though, are getting higher, the Kaiju are getting smarter, and the recently-retired Jaeger initiative needs its best and brightest back at the helm. Yes, there's something refreshing about being able to explain that without doubt.
We've got our would-be GI Joe, check, but he's curiously selfless (and boring) instead of cocky.
Female lead Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) is also bland, but at least she's got brains, skill, and brawn without a gratuitous costume or a bunch of half-smiled come ons. Military gentleman Pentecost (Elba) is an attentive, team-playing realist (and stand-in for the 'black president' trope?) who actually does listen to the little guy instead of ignoring all signs until the last go. And our neurotic scientist is a little less straight-laced, a little more spastic, tattooed, devil-may-care wiseass (yep, Charlie Day) who, interestingly, is rarely the smartest guy in the room. They're all caricatures, yes, and the acting leaves much to be desired, but in a way that means Del Toro isn't bogging down the big story with the weak attempts at pathos so many throw down to redirect the plot. It's passable, and honestly, if you're going to this movie to care about the humans, you're in it for the wrong damn reason. What you need to know: things come together, and all of it happens in an ascending, pleasing order. Battles get progressively bigger, more is at stake, sometimes characters actually die. Let's not forget the best part...