In the past Guillermo del Toro has used ghosts as metaphors for fractured relationships (The Devil’s Backbone) and task-master demons as the personifications of the ill effects of civil war and bad parenting (Pan’s Labyrinth), but in Pacific Rim he goes Hollywood and delivers a simple giant monsters vs. giant robots saga. Which….when you think about…in the hands of del Toro…should be totally badass, right? I mean, 180 million dollars to film non-stop monsters vs. robots mayhem? What could go wrong?
Pacific Rim is by no means a bad flick, in fact, most of it is quite fun. I just couldn’t help feeling underwhelmed considering the can’t miss concept and del Toro’s knack for adding deeper meaning to genre conventions while delivering some of the most wildly imaginative creature effects you’ll ever see. Everything about it is just…well…good…but not as good as it should be…or as good as I wished it could be.
The monster (kaiju) and robot (jaegar) designs are well done and handled with great care (it’s not your typical cut-and-paste CGI) but sadly, though saturated with rich colors and photographed much more cleanly than a Michael Bay film, the gee-whiz effects spend most of the film hazed in smoke, the dark of night or covered in water. I would’ve liked some more lingering shots…some more day time stuff…to really bring about that sense of awe.
No one should expect much by way of the screenplay (it’s supposed to be about monsters and robots, duh!) so I didn’t mind the cheesy dialogue and silly characters. For me, there was just enough character development for this type of film…i.e. character A is bonded to character B because character B saved character A as a child. But I had hoped, beyond the Ron Perlman cameo, that del Toro would’ve put a bit more of his stamp on the story…added a teeny bit of subtext…or a bit more of his Hellboy-brand humor. And it would’ve been nice if they had come up with a more creative way to end the movie (SPOILER ALERT!) other than the stereotypical “let’s drop a nuke in the monsters’/aliens’ layer” bit.
The other aspects of the film are all fine, but just as another example of how a can’t miss opportunity ends in slight disappointment…the score from Ramin Djawadi (of Game of Thrones fame) was, well…just adequate…and a guy that talented should be delivering more than adequate especially when tasked with drumming up a theme for monsters and robots beating the living shit out of each other.
Guillermo del Toro pays nice homage to the Japanese monster films of yesterday and a variety of other fun action packed genres that I enjoyed as a kid…but…well, I guess it just comes down to me not being a kid anymore. I want a little bit more as an adult, and because I know del Toro can deliver that, I’m a bit disheartened to see he was just happy with selling out and delivering a finely polished product that could’ve been so much more.
Written by David H. Schleicher