Pacific Rim (2013)
“Go big or go extinct”
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi
Synopsis: As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.
Pacific Rim opens in the present day with a giant monster emerging from a fissure which forms a portal between this and another dimension to bring destruction upon the citizens of San Francisco. This is the first of a number of monsters known as kaiju to wreak havoc upon the Pacific’s major coastal cities, and it takes conventional military weapons days to eventually bring it down. When the world’s leaders realise that the attack was not an isolated one, and that more will follow, they sanction the construction of gigantic human-operated robots known as Jaegers to counter the threat. Initially, the Jaegers are successful, and its two pilots, whose minds are melded together while operating the robot so that its movements are properly co-ordinated, become media superstars.
Fast forward seven years, and we find two of these pilots, Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam — Children of Men) and his older brother, Yancy (Diego Klattenhoff — After Earth) being despatched to battle a monster off the coast near Anchorage. The boys disobey orders in order to rescue a distressed fishing boat, a decision which has fatal consequences when the robot is badly damaged by the kaiju and Yancy is killed while his mind is still merged with Raleigh. His brother’s death prompts Beckett to abandon his work with the Jaeger project, and he eventually finds work helping to build giant walls intended to prevent any marauding kaiju from reaching land. The authorities believe these walls will provide the level of protection that the Jaegers are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain because of increased attacks, and the project’s leader, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba — 28 Days Later) is informed that the program will be relocated to Hong Kong and provided with only another 8 month’s funding. The fact that a kaiju subsequently breaches a wall built around Sydney harbour, and that Pentecost personally asks Beckett to return to piloting, persuades him to return to the cause once again as the battle against the kaiju enters a new, and increasingly deadly, phase.
In this modern age of movie-making, there are some cast-iron, guaranteed ways of calculating just how bad a movie is going to be. The correlation between a movie’s budget and the fame and prestige of its stars is always a reliable indicator. Pacific Rim’s budget is estimated at $190,000,000 and its biggest name is Idris Elba, who is probably best known to many for his part in the US TV show The Wire, which ended in 2004. Another clue as to the quality of a movie is to be found in the names given to a movie’s lead characters — obviously, with the general rule of thumb being that the more ridiculous the name the worse the movie. Pacific Rim’s characters, most of whom would have been born in the late 20th Century don’t forget, include Raleigh, Yancy, Hannibal and Stacker.
Alarm bells ringing loud and clear, then, and Pacific Rim does nothing to disprove the above theory. Although it boasts some terrific CGI effects — which, of course, explains why they couldn’t afford to hire actors who were in a position to demand too much money — everything else about this movie — and I mean everything — is truly awful. The internal logic of the movie is non-existent, with the world’s governments blithely abandoning their only proven means of defence against the kaiju in favour of big walls that they’re confident will defeat their monstrous foes because, well, they’re really big. The dialogue might as well have been written by a computer — on more than a few occasions I was able to predict the next line a character was going to speak. And I don’t mean a rough approximation of their words — I mean I was able to predict the line word for word. The plot’s predictability means the movie becomes a test of endurance long before the halfway mark, with supposedly emotional cues falling flat time after time. Stacker Pentecost’s ‘inspirational’ speech before the final confrontation with the kaiju, for example, makes Bill Pullman’s speech in Independence Day look like the work of a master writer.
Perhaps the most depressing thing about it all — other than the fact that it’s a labour of love from a director with a lot of good work on his CV — is that Pacific Rim earned a worldwide gross of more than $400,000,000. This is largely thanks to a 12A rating, but it’s sad to think that the next generation is being constantly drip-fed a succession of movies like Pacific Rim which can only mean that Hollywood will simply keep churning out bigger, louder, brighter and even more brainless fodder until all the difficult stuff like plot and character development are completely erased from its output.