Giant robots and gargantuan monsters haven’t exactly had a good run over the last couple of decades. Pacific Rim combines both; I didn’t have high hopes, but I was happy to be proven wrong.

After its third weekend in the cinemas the film has struggled to break even at the box office (ComicBook.com: As Pacific Rim Struggles…) which sadly goes to show that Hollywood safe route thinking has its basis in fact. So what if you haven’t heard of it before? So what if you don’t know who’s in it? Take a chance on this one because you’ll regret missing on the big screen.

Poster for Pacific Rim*Poster image from Moustache Magazine.

The Earth is under attack. Below the Pacific Ocean, a rift in space brings forth monstrous beasts known as kaiju. When conventional weapons prove ineffectual, mankind creates a new form of defence; massive robots called jaegers. Operated by a pair of pilots linked by a neural bridge, the jaegers hold the line of the pacific coast. For a time the jaegers keep the kaiju in check, but with each wave, the attacking kaiju grow in size and strength.

One by one the jaegers fall. Driven to the brink of defeat, with only four jaegers still operational, a reckless plan is concocted to make one do or die attack to seal the rift.

Retired pilot Raleigh Becket is called back to the helm of Gypsy Danger, the jaeger he once piloted with his brother. In the co-pilot seat; prodigal trainee Mako Mori. Between them they must take the restored and upgraded Gypsy Danger to the front lines, along with Striker Eureka, the fastest and most powerful jaeger ever built, Crimson Typhoon, a three armed jaeger piloted by triplets, and Cherno Alpha, a heavyweight veteran of the early days.

It is refreshing to see a big budget, effects driven film that isn’t a sequel, remake or adaptation of some existing franchise. I don’t blame Hollywood for wanting some assurances that they will have an audience when big sums of money are concerned, but always taking the safe route means viewers rarely get the chance to enter an epic world that’s entirely new. I think this is one of the reasons that James Cameron’s Avatar was so successful. Films should be taking us to new places as much books or comics, so good on director Del Toro and his team for taking the risk with Pacific Rim.

The film isn’t populated by big stars either, another risky strategy, but one that, in my opinion, pays off. By not trying to sell the film with a big star and thus feeling the need for them to be on screen all the time, the supporting characters get the screen time they need to play out the various sub plots. The core performances from Charlie Gunnan and  Rinko Kikuchi are strong enough to carry the film, but they form one part of a compelling whole. In classic disaster movie style, this isn’t a one man show, it’s a team effort and the supporting cast, including Idris Elba, Ron Perlman, Charlie Day and Max Martini make a great team.

All-powerful titans can be something of a stumbling block for film makers; how do you make a fight interesting when the opponents are indestructible? In recently released Man of Steel the answer seemed to be to have the characters repeatedly charge each other at high speed. Yawn. Pacific Rim doesn’t make that mistake. Buildings get levelled, but only as a bi-product of some spectacularly innovative and well-choreographed fights. The jaeger pilots dish out some kick ass moves, improvise with what’s at hand and deploy a whole range of geek-candy grade weapons.

Del Toro draws influences from the Japanese mecha and kaiju genres (Godzilla being perhaps the most famous of the latter) with a confessed desire to bring these genres to a new audience (LA Times Hero Complex:  Guillermo del Toro edges …). Some previous western adaptations and interpretations have somewhat missed the mark, but not so here. It maintains a somewhat fantasy feel alongside it’s more realistic visual style, and succeeds in drawing you into emotional investment in the machines.

It’s a real edge of your seat adrenalin rush ride. Don’t miss out.

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