Remember when you were a kid and you’d bake a cake with your mum, and she’d ice it, and she’d let you lick whatever was left in the icing bowl? And the icing tasted soooo good that you tried to persuade her to ditch the cake and just let you eat just icing, and she’d be like “No, shut up and eat your delicious cake”? But then years later you were hanging out with your friends, maybe you were drunk or something, and you decided you’d finally eat that bowl of just icing, Mum be damned, so you did, and it was kind of awesome but it also made you feel kind of gross?
Pacific Rim is that bowl of icing.
Which, OK, is exactly how a movie about giant monsters fighting giant robots* should be. Director Guillermo del Toro, who also co-wrote the screenplay, knows just what kind of film he’s making here. He doesn’t waste time with things like satire or humour or subtlety: Pacific Rim is big and loud and intense and fun and silly. There isn’t a lick of Dark Knight-ish grimness. (PHEW.) If you’re not in the right frame of mind for it, you’ll just hate it: You can’t watch a movie which straight-facedly shouts the line “The apocalypse is cancelled!” without wearing your 14-year-old-idiot-boy googles, because the second you look at Pacific Rim through your grown-up eyes you realise it’s just made from sugar and water and not a whole lot else.
(*Or, to borrow Pacific Rim‘s terminology, “kaiju” fighting “jaegers”. It is very entertaining watching them battle each other! But also pretty exhausting.)
Scattered around all that spectacle are the characters, which are sketched in then largely forgotten about when the monster-robot fights get underway. They’re a diverse bunch, cheerfully free of that “U-S-A! U-S-A!” grossness in so many other America-saves-the-world blockbusters. Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam, who – thank god – has ditched that awful Sons of Anarchy hair/beard combo and seems to have accepted that, yes, he is a beautiful pretty-boy), is an American former jaeger pilot with a tortured past. Stacker Pentecost (the awesome Idris Elba), is the super-macho English military-type leading the last-ditch effort to send the kaiju back down the interdimensional wormhole, or whatever, that they’re leaking out of. Hercules and Chuck Hansen (Max Martini and Robert Kazinsky) are a father-and-son team of jaeger pilots who… I think are meant to be Australian? (They sound Cockney. That is not what Australia sounds like, America*.) Kaiju scientists Geizler and Gottlieb (Charlie Day and Burn Gorman) are the not-very-funny comic relief duo, who…
(*I will forgive the film this transgression, only because there’s an early, too-short scene depicting Sydney under attack by a kaiju. And if there’s one thing I like seeing onscreen, it’s giant monsters trashing local landmarks.)
… hey, are you starting to notice a pattern with all those characters? No, not their ridiculous (but kind of admirably over-the-top) names. Something else they share in common? Something like… penises? The only major female character, really the only female character at all*, is Raleigh’s jaeger co-pilot Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), whose identity is thoroughly, unmistakably stamped “GIRL”. She gets a few obligatory ass-kicking scenes – “obligatory” because how else would you know she’s a Strong Female Character – but mostly she’s demure, quiet, doesn’t do much unless a man has told her to do it**. Seriously, would it have killed del Toro and his collaborators to make just one of the other supporting male characters a woman? Pacific Rim sometimes feels like boys much around with their toys, and it’s annoying.
(*I refuse to count the female Russian jaeger pilot who has approximately two lines of grunting, or the jaegers’ GLaDOS-y computer system, which is voiced by the GLaDOS, Ellen McLain.)
(**What is interesting about Mako is that, though you expect her to wind up Raleigh’s love interest, the duo’s relationship isn’t that romantic – at least, not explicitly so.)
Honestly I can’t decide if Pacific Rim is like every other blockbuster I ever saw, or not like any other blockbuster I ever saw. It’s unquestionably memorable. And it deserves kudos for a) not desperately attempting to launch a new franchise by ending on even a hint of a sequel, and b) just going for it for 130 minutes. It’s so big it’s numbing. If you ever laughed so hard you just wound up feeling hollow and exhausted and weirdly underwhelmed by the joke that made you laugh in the first place – that is how you will feel watching Pacific Rim.