Published Jul 11, 2013Nobody can stretch a buck on screen like Guillermo del Toro. With less funding than your average mega-blockbuster, the director of Pan's Labyrinth and the Hellboy series has created the big daddy of all spectacle movies in Pacific Rim.
The concept, shaped by del Toro from an original story by Travis Beacham (Clash of the Titans, so don't expect the wittiest wordplay), is a gleefully massive modernization of Japanese Kaiju movies (Godzilla and Mothra being the best known). To do battle with the massive "strange beasts" spewing forth in regular intervals from an inter-dimensional portal in the ocean floor, mankind develops equally giant machines called Jaegers (a concept that lovingly references "mecha" anime, such as the weirdly metaphysical Evangelion), the German word for hunter.
More than ever before, del Toro is focused on simply making a wildly enjoyable piece of grandiose cinema engineered specifically to stimulate the pleasure centres of adolescent brains. Kids will love it and adults will feel like kids again. Aside from the obvious foreign aggressors angle, there isn't a great deal of subtext to speak of; Pacific Rim is more concerned with awe-inspiring, orgiastic action scenes and geek-baiting tech talk spun from existing DARPA research than giving its characters anything to learn outside the usual military notions of sacrifice and valour.
Charlie Hunnam plays elite Jaeger pilot Raleigh Becket, who we meet near the beginning of the invasion. The Jaegers require two minds to control them — a "neural handshake" is established between pilots and machine. During a bout with a particularly nasty Kaiju, Becket's co-pilot, his brother, is killed while the neural link is still active. Wracked by guilt and haunted by the experience of feeling his brother's death, Becket leaves the Jaeger program, only to return five years later when the situation has grown dire.
From start to finish, it's a mad dash of the most gloriously over-the-top action sequences thus far imaginable, slowing only briefly in the middle for Idris Elba and Rinko Kikuchi to give us a reason to root for humanity, and Charlie Day and Ron Perlman to provide some scientific exposition posed as comic relief.
Oh, and Pacific Rim is a must-see in 3D. Somehow the Mexican cinema wizard has managed to turn a post-conversion job into the most immersive stereoscopic imaging since Avatar.
Read our exclusive interview with director Guillermo del Toro here. (Warner)