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Pacific Rim (Blu-ray / DVD)

Cover art:

reviews/pacific-rim-blu-ray-s.jpg

Pacific Rim (Blu-ray / DVD)Starring Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Idris Elba, Max Martini, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Ron Perlman
Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Distributed by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment


For anyone familiar with Dinner for Fiends, the Dread Central podcast featuring five of this site’s contributors (Uncle Creepy, Matt Fini, The Foywonder, Buz Danger and Andrew Kasch), likely the most memorable episode in recent memory was the one that featured a contentious discussion on Pacific Rim (listen here). Tempers flared, voices were raised, and a sixth DFF participant was even murdered in the thick of it all by Uncle Creepy when he dared speak ill of classic monster cinema (this guy has since been stricken from Dread history and erased from all previous DFFs – Rest in Peace, Cap’n Terror).

Still, the argument was a good one, mostly fought between Buz and Creepy. Buz argued that, while the movie was fun, it was seriously lacking in the character depth department. Creepy countered that this didn’t matter, as the monsters-first/people-last approach was in keeping with the types of giant monster movies from which Rim director Guillermo del Toro drew his inspiration.

Eventually, everyone calmed down – knives were put away, there were hugs, a body was buried. But the argument remained somewhat unresolved. Should a movie get a pass for something as egregious as quite thinly written characters if it nails the action and cool monster designs that were its raison d’etre? Can’t a movie just be enjoyed on its own terms, rather than what we wish it to be? These are the questions that bounced around inside this reviewer’s noggin when he finally sat down to take in Pacific Rim and write this review.

The eighth film from director del Toro, who have given us some of the best cinema of the past two decades, Rim opens with an introduction to its bizarre, bleak world – presenting to us an Earth that has been attacked over and over by giant monsters (called “kaijus”) that have seeped out of an interdimensional portal deep in the Pacific Ocean. Mankind, devastated by massive losses (the monsters tend to wipe out large swaths of cities and humanity before they’re brought down), came up with an ingenious idea – they built skyscraper-tall robots to battle the alien threat. Controlled by a two-pilot system, these big mechs (or “Jaegers”) did a great job of initially stomping down the threat – until the kaijus came back stronger than ever.

The film proper begins several years later, with the Jaeger program winding down in favor of major cities building enormous walls to keep out the kaijus. Enter Stacker Pentecost (Elba), the current Jaeger program commander who believes the giant ‘bots are still humanity’s best bet at survival. With a limited amount of resources, Pentecost recruits former pilot Raleigh Becket (Hunnam) to help man a revived Jaeger named Gipsy Danger – the very mech he once co-piloted with his brother before they were attacked and his brother was killed, which led Raleigh to retire from the program. Stacker eventually pairs Raleigh with a young pilot named Mako Mori (Kikuchi), and together the unlikely duo pilot Gipsy Danger alongside a small squadron of Jaegers in an effort to battle the monstrous threat they must continually face, and to possibly find a way to end the attacks on humanity once and for all.

Pacific Rim, more than anything, is a complete blast to watch and enjoy. From its gorgeous photography and designs, to its kickass hero ‘bots and super-cool monsters, to its hellacious battle sequences and pounding soundtrack, Rim is the ultimate Saturday morning matinee flick for your inner twelve year old. This writer was left awed at some of the action sequences, cheered when the heroes were victorious, and was left humming the film’s main musical theme once the credits hit. Seriously, if you’ve ever found yourself, at any point, enjoying an old, badly-dubbed kaiju or mech flick (whether in your childhood or just last week) – hit your couch with a bowl of monster cereal, put this flick on, and just you try your very best not to grin from ear to ear throughout.

That said – the film is somewhat disappointing when one considers that it’s coming from a filmmaker like del Toro. GdT has built a career on telling smart, character-centric stories – whether they be quiet horror films or action-packed spectacles. With Pacific Rim, del Toro gives us loads of spectacle, but little heart. It pains me to say that, because I love the man and his movies, but not a one of the characters has anything remotely resembling depth in Rim. They have tragic backstories, certainly, but none of this ever really registers on an emotional level. All of the performances are decent enough (especially Elba and Perlman, of course), but the people populating this flick really are little more than archetypal placeholders. Bland, handsome hero? Check. Pretty, ass-kicking female lead? Check. Asshole rival who’ll eventually be won over by our hero’s courage? Check. Gruff commander, loveable sleazeball, annoying comic relief? Check, check, and check.

Does any of this get in the way of the movie’s fun? Absolutely not. Was I expecting more than this simply because it was coming from one of my favorite filmmakers? Yes. A thousand times, yes. I expect this sort of action-heavy/characterization-lite flick from, say, Michael Bay – not from the guy who gave us Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy II (for the record, Rim is better than any of Bay’s Transformers flicks).

So yeah, Rim is fun, even if the characters are mere sketches. That aside, the film is home to some incredible ideas and design work. One of the cooler ideas in the film is “drifting” – when two Jaeger pilots essentially mind-meld to synchronize themselves with the gargantuan machine they are to control. The way this is handled visually, with each person’s memories fluidly rushing by as though part of a current, is really fantastic, and a tribute to del Toro’s abilities as a visual stylist. The rest of Rim’s world, too, feels fully realized – from the costumes, to the decimated cities and the slums that have popped up in their wake, to the biology of the kaijus and how the felled creatures are harvested on the black market for various purposes. All of this is just extraordinary world-building, and makes me hope a sequel isn’t too far off so that we might further explore this version of Earth and the fallout from this film’s climax.

Pacific Rim has been given lots of love by Warner Brothers for its Blu-ray release. In addition to the DVD, the film was also released on a 3D Blu and a 2D Blu-ray/DVD combo pack (featuring an additional disc full of bonus features). For the purposes of this review, we’ll be taking a look at the 2D Blu set.

The image…it stuns. I could elaborate in boring detail (and might still), but honestly – it’s perfect. The gorgeous color, the brilliant detail…it’s just jaw-droppingly perfect. Paired with that is an audio track (available in both 5.1 and 7.1) that will utterly kick your ass. It’s a monstrous track, which more than does justice to the film’s thunderous sound design. The presentation of this film couldn’t be any better.

And then, the bonus features. *deep breath*

First up, we get an audio commentary with del Toro. It’s a great listen, as the filmmaker’s commentaries generally are, with the director going well into detail about his intentions and the film’s production. Then, the first disc of the Blu is rounded out by thirteen “focus points”, which are brief featurettes covering many different aspects of Pacific Rim’s making (del Toro’s style, the history of mech/monster films, the film’s designs, and a couple of set visits are but a few of the subjects covered here).

The second disc includes this set’s coolest feature – “The Director’s Notebook”. This interactive peek into the director’s legendary notebook features illustrations, translated text, and even videos related to the subjects seen on each page. Just a great, great supplement for the film.

Also included on the second disc is “Drift Space”, a neat feature which applies facts and character bios in breakdowns of the film’s drift sequences. “The Digital Artistry of Pacific Rim” takes a look at ILM’s impressive VFX work, while “The Shatterdome” is home to a massive archive of animatics and conceptual artwork. Toss in a set of four (forgettable) deleted scenes and a fun blooper reel, and you have a pretty amazing set of extras which will keep fans of this flick busy for hours. Well done, WB.

So what’s my verdict? Which side of the Buz/Creepy fence might I have fallen if I had been a part of that DFF discussion? Well, while I think both parties’ arguments certainly had merit – and while I do think the movie has some serious flaws, especially in the writing department – this reviewer was ultimately left giggling maniacally at the complete joy and crazy spectacle of Pacific Rim. The film isn’t perfect, and I really do hope that the inevitable sequel will improve upon this initial installment’s flaws, but I can’t ignore the fact that this film is a beautifully made, insanely fun two hour fireworks display of a film.

For better or worse – I loved it.

Special Features

  • Audio Commentary with Guillermo del Toro
  • Focus Points
    – A Film by Guillermo del Toro
    – A Primer on Kaijus and Jaegers
    – Intricacy of Robot Design
    – Honoring the Kaiju Tradition
    – The Importance of Mass and Scale
    – Shatterdome Ranger Roll Call
    – Jaegers Echo Human Grace
    – Inside the Drift
    – Goth-Tech
    – Mega Sized Sets
    – Baby Kaiju Set Visit
    – Tokyo Alley Set Visit
    – Orchestral Sounds from the Anteverse

  • The Director’s Notebook
  • Drift Space
  • The Digital Artistry of Pacific Rim
  • The Shatterdome
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Blooper Reel

    Film:

    4 out of 5

    Special Features:

    4 out of 5

    Discuss Pacific Rim in the comments section below!

  • Jinx

    • Gus Bjork

      My biggest issue with Pacific Rim is that I seriously don’t remember seeing it. I was there, I bought a ticket, I had a thing going with the bartender at the theater and then I was in a friends car on the way home.

      Sooooo. Not so good huh?

    • nazo

      I loved this movie just as much the second time I watched it. The tone and aesthetic were perfect.

    • kiddcapone

      What amuses me the most about Pacific Rim is how bent out of shape everyone gets while debating the quality of this cheeseball kid’s movie…The target audience was clearly aimed at children because the intelligence level is virtually nonexistent. It’s like the difference between watching Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park in 1982 and watching it in 2013. Shit is much more entertaining when you’re young and naive.

      You’ve got giant stupid robots fighting big dumb non-scary looking monsters. And…that’s it. Nothing more. No additional levels of depth. You just sit there and watch one ridiculous scene lead into the next. You watch uninteresting bad actors. You watch the same storyline you’ve seen regurgitated with no surprises. The government decided that creating massive robots was the most efficient way of killing monsters. Not some giant weapon, but a handful of robots, that can only be piloted by a dozen or so lucky people in the entire country. And to make it more interesting, these robots all have special weapons, BUT, they prefer punching the shit out of these things for shits and giggles until they are losing the fight. Plus these robots are can take a beating, but still manage to remain airtight while fighting underwater.

      I like Del Toro as a director. I really thought the guy could bring something new and interesting to a genre of film based on some guy wearing a rubber suit kicking over cardboard houses, but I was wrong. Anyone could have directed this piece of shit and it wouldn’t have mattered.

      • The Buz

        You summed up exactly why it was so disappointing at the end of that.

        I agree 100%.

    • Chernobyl Kinsman

      Woah, everyone went all Mexican on Buz =(

      • The Buz

        It’s okay. Mexico has taught me to have thick skin.

    • The Buz

      I appreciate you Jinx for at least being intellectually honest with yourself about the abhorrent writing and characters but still enjoying it for what it was. I wish I could have done that.

      Sadly this movie is one of the disappointing pieces of trash I’ve seen in a long time. It pains me to do so, but it’ll be on my bottom 5 at the end of the year.

      • Jinx

        Say whaaaaaa-?!

        Have your feelings changed since that DFF? Thought you had at least appreciated it for being fun. I actually completely get that, if so. Further I get from ONLY GOD FORGIVES, the more I find myself appreciating certain sequences (though I stand by my review, I plan on revisiting it down the line after I check out some of Refn’s earlier flicks).

        In any case, thanks for reading.

        • The Buz

          I think the public forgiveness turned my taste so sour from the film that the more I sat on it (especially after that DFF) the more and more I hated it.

          In a year or so I’ll give it another watch, but as it stands now it was just an utter disappointment that I cannot forgive coming from someone like Del Toror.

          And not for nothing, it wasn’t just the characters. The final battle taking place under water was such a horrible decision that it boggles the mind. Also the fact that all the Kaiju looked alike, and the Jaegers were dispatched like Fine China on a Children’s Play ground.

          So fucking dumb.

          And as far as Only God Forgives goes, once the credit came up dedicating the film to Alejandro Jodorowsky I knew exactly what he was doing with the film. It’s brilliant. Fucking LOVED that movie.

          • Jinx

            The underwater battle didn’t bother me, but I hear you on the lack of variety with the Kaijus. Makes sense storywise, considering they’re all being cooked up by the same chefs, but had the Kaijus been a tad more different from one another it might’ve done the film a world of good. Curious, too – as much as del Toro seems to like designing monsters, one would think he’d have dove into crafting all sorts of giant monsters to display (though I thought a lot of the design work was pretty fantastic elsewhere in the movie).

          • Chernobyl Kinsman

            Yeah, my biggest gripe with the movie was the Russian and Chinese Jaegers getting to do fuck all before being destroyed, they were way cooler than Gypsy Danger and had crews I wanted to know more about.

          • Foywonder

            So because something you found disappointing is suddenly popular you’re going to willfully change your tune from being letdown to hateful and bitter out of sheer spite? So you’re like an anti-hipster now?

            • LSD Zombie

              Yeah! Buz is like those people that instantly shat all over the Burton Batman films as soon as Begins hit theaters.

            • The Buz

              THE GEEK GODS HAVE TEMPTED ME TO RESPOND!

              I never liked Burton’s original Batman. I’m a huge Batman fan and that just isn’t Bats to me, or at least what I like. Hell Nolan’s movies aren’t even the Batman I really want (though they are infinitely better made films).

              I do like Returns, just because of how wacky it is. Also Chris Walken.

              However as Batman films they are awful and completely miss the point. Nolan’s movies at least get the entire conceit of Batman, but alas miss the stuff that make Batman so fucking interesting. Like would it kill WB to give us one Batman movie with a fucking mystery through line that the WORLDS GREATEST DETECTIVE could solve!? I mean come on! One montage in Dark Knight does not count.

              So no I’m not someone that just started shitting on Burton’s movies because of Nolans. I always shat on Burtons, and I only pee on Nolans a little.

            • LSD Zombie

              At least the Burton films aren’t ashamed of looking like comic book films. Every time I watch a Nolan Batman film I feel like I’m watching a big budget episode of Law and Order with Batman as the special guest star.

            • The Buz

              Oh dude I totally agree. The look of Burton’s films are cool! But that ain’t enough for me as we can tell from my discussions about Pacific Rim.

              Story is 95% what I look for in a film. Nolan’s first two Bat flicks have Batman story that I genuinely care about and enjoy quite a bit.

              Still…would love a Girl with the Dragon Tattoo type noir with Batman trying to solve the mystery.

              So…yeah Fincher needs to do a Batman movie.

              Holy shit.

            • LSD Zombie

              The ideal Batman film definitely hasn’t been made yet. Like you said, I want the world’s greatest detective Batman. He should also utilize acrobatics and martial arts when engaging his enemies. Something that he hasn’t been able to do because of the stupid fucking costume designs. Here’s hoping that they go with a less restrictive black and grey costume for Bats vs. Supes.

              Not only has the comments section gone off the rails, but I just made it extra geeky too.

            • LifeMi

              As much as I love Batman 89 and Nolans films, its more than a little sad that none of them hold a candle to some of the animated films like mask of the phantasm and the dark knight returns let alone the first two arkham games

            • Chernobyl Kinsman

              Wha.. the story in Nolan’s second batman film just goes pants on head retarded =/

            • MonsterMash

              Meanwhile in the Pacific Rim thread….

            • LSD Zombie

              And while we’re at it, The Devil Inside SUCKS!

            • Rottenjesus

              Please don’t bring this up on the next DFF. Another fifteen minutes of Buz screaming like a teenage girl who’s found her first vibrator would absolutely break what’s left of my sanity.

              No offense Buz. You can stop writing your tear stained suicide note about the Jonas Brothers breaking up. :)

            • The Buz

              Ah yes, me not liking a shitty giant monster movie equates to me liking the Jonas Brothers.

              No offense taken. I understand that people have immature and terrible taste and accept it for what it is ;)

            • Rottenjesus

              And I can maturely accept that you like boring arthouse masturbatory crap like Only God Forgives because I still like you Buz. Pigtails and all. ;)

            • The Buz

              Let me clarify so yours and everyones pussy’s can stop crying.

              I truly could not figure out why I was so bothered by it, and having everyone tell me that no, it’s good…seriously…well I start to look at those things more closely. And you know what I found? A big steaming pile of shit. The more I broke down the film to find happiness the more I found wrong with it.

              Is it the type of movie that you’re supposed to do that to? Fuck no! I don’t do that shit with Bad Boys 2 because I know what I’m getting.

              But again, Pacific Rim ISN’T an old Godzilla movie from my Childhood. It’s a brand new movie written and directed by a guy who has given us fantastic films featuring all sorts of effects and monsters. And what should have been is opus turned out to be just another run of the mill spectacle. It’s unfortunate that I couldn’t have fun with it, and maybe one day I can revisit and actually enjoy it for what it is, but when characters are so fucking 1 dimensional and lack any kind of ethos/pathos I just can’t enjoy it.

              I’m just happy that people are finally coming down from their cheap elation and admitting that the movie is not well written with a lack of good characters and is just a base level fun.

            • aliensharkboy

              You seriously gonna put Bad Boys 2, A MICHAEL BAY FILM, on a higher rating position than Pacific Rim? I… I’m lost for words.

            • Uncle Creepy

              *shakes head*

            • Cinemascribe

              Although I don’t think it’s a steaming pile of shit, I wasn’t particularly blown away either, Buz. I enjoyed the spectacle of Pacific Rim, got a kick out of watching giant monsters fight giant robots (the first few times it happened.then it got repetitive), then noticed the dearth of interesting characters, grew restless by the time they headed into the aquatic showdown , waited for it to end and promptly forgot most of what I had just seen by the time I got home that night.

              It wasn’t a bad film ,it just wasn’t anything that special. As it turns out,I do at least want characters I can enjoy watching for two hours mixed in with the eye popping visuals.Pacific Rim may homage Godzilla and other films of its type, but it isn’t those films. I expected a lot more than this.

              As to the criticism of that climactic battle being underwater: I don’t think the problem is that it was underwater. The issue was that so many things were going on at once in that scene that it was hard to follow. Underwater scenes can be pulled of successfully: Look at JAWS. There’s a film that has an epic sequence that takes place entirely underwater involving Hooper in the shark cage being attacked by the Great White. That scene works just fine because we can follow what’s happening. In Pacific Rim – with all of the effects involving the aquatic gateway to the creatures’ world, the monsters themselves and the robots – it got out of hand and became digitized chaos. Great idea, poor execution.

              I’d go to see a sequel to Pacific Rim if it comes, but one would hope that Del Toro can bring this closer to the feel of something like his Hellboy films, which managed to be creative, effects heavy movies with a fairly epic scope that had a lot of heart. This one looked good and had a lot of action, but it had no soul- it’s a long, admittedly well executed visual effects sequence that repeats it’s own steps by the conclusion. I doubt I’ll watch Pacific Rim again any time soon.

    • MonsterMash

      I will disagree with those who say the characters weren’t drawn out enough. Mori was traumatized by a kaiju as a kid, Pentacost has over-protective parent syndrome, the motivation of the pilots was to save the world from a kaiju apocalypse, and that applies to pretty much everyone else too. You’re not going to have much character conflict when they all join together for a common cause, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It also didn’t pull any punches or go all soft on the viewer at the end, when the two pilots reemerged. It was a believable ending. Any character conflict would have killed the films momentum and detracted from the monsters. Anyone who says the characters of Pacific Rim doesn’t have characters is clearly over analyzing it. The characters are there. They’re believable almost all the time. This film has a very specific audience(Godzilla fans), and hits the nail on the head. I feel this film was catered to me. It’s the most fun film I’ve ever seen in a theater.

      • Chernobyl Kinsman

        I loved it, but they *were* very underdeveloped – the key thing here is the amount of time they spent on them without actually doing much with them at all, if there had been a lot more action and less time spent on the characters, it would’t have mattered at all.

    • GODFLESH69

      I was so amped to see this I left work early on opening day to catch the matinee and after 2+ hrs i left the theater a little disappointed . This could have been EPIC but as pointed out the flaws for me outweighed it’s strengths. The characters is this were so thinly developed and the dialog was laughable, just so telegraphed. I didn’t find the Kaiju designs to be that interesting, the old Godzilla Kaiju had more variety to them and the fight scenes were way too similiar and not as EPIC as they could have been and was hard to tell what was happening on screen & it was just anticlimatic for me also the tone changes in the movie just lost me this was supposed to be mans last stand to save the planet i didn’t feel it on the screen the comic relief just didn’t fit the situation for me should have been more a serious tone . While a visual feast at times i didn’t find this to be the classic i was hoping for but it was a good popcorn movie worth a matinee .

    • Rottenjesus

      Unlike Grandpacapone, I really dug the hell out of PACIFIC RIM since it really was a love letter to the giant monster movies a lot of us grew up on and still enjoy to this day. Those movies aren’t exactly top shelf in the story/character department either but hey that’s just me. PR was THE movie of the Summer, The World’s End was a lot of fun too but man PR delivered on every front and then some.

      Pacific Rim is fucking great!

      • aliensharkboy

        Hellz yeeaahhhhhhh! Definitely a top of the list contender for this year.

        “Those movies aren’t exactly top shelf in the story/character department” Well, let’s not forget films like GMK or Gamera 3 that do stand out in the Kaiju genre. Even to a point that I’d argue them better than PR. I feel like they’ll sadly be forgotten soon.

        Having said that, Pacific Rim was still perfection.

    • kiddcapone

      Pacific Rim is an amazing movie….if you’re under the age of 14.

      It is nothing but lollipop cartoonish entertainment for children. The entire film plays out like a child bashing two plastic toys together and Del Toro writing it down for inspiration on a cocktail napkin.

      The fight scenes look like a PS3 video game, the main characters suck, the storyline is weak, and the final showdown is unsatisfying. Why anyone would choose to have a final fight scene completely underwater is baffling to me. You expect the finale to be epic. It would be like Rocky Balboa’s big fight happens in the middle of the film and the last 30 minutes is just Rocky going through physical therapy post-fight.

      Pacific Rim 1.5/5.