‘Pacific Rim’ Review

Published 2 years ago by , Updated November 15th, 2014 at 12:24 am,

Jaeger Gypsy Danger in Pacific Rim  Pacific Rim Review

While the storyline and emotional core aren’t strong, the action and spectacle are, and del Toro builds his world well enough to create plenty of future opportunities.

In Pacific Rim we are greeted by an imminent future in which humanity has been besieged by giant monsters known as “Kaiju,” which emerge from a dimensional rift deep beneath the Pacific Ocean in order to wreak havoc on humanity. To combat this threat, humanity comes together to create “Jaegers,” giant robots controlled by two mind-linked pilots.

At first, the Jaegers seem like the perfect deterrent for the Kaiju menace; but when the monsters start getting smarter and deadlier – and Jaegers begin falling quicker than they can be rebuilt – mankind finds itself on the brink of extinction. Our last hope lies with the desperate plan of Marshall Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) and his handful of remaining Jaeger pilots, including war-worn veteran  Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and rookie Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), an unlikely pair who may prove to be the best pilot team the world has ever seen.

Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi in Pacific Rim1 Pacific Rim Review

Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi in ‘Pacific Rim’

We can make this short and easy: If the spectacle of big robots battling it out with big monsters is all you’re interested in, then Pacific Rim is going to be a five-star experience that you should wholly enjoy in the biggest IMAX 3D theater you can find (earplugs recommended). However, if you require a deeper story and mythos to sell you on all the spectacle? You will get plenty of mythos, but despite a parade of “cool moments,” a mishandled central storyline ultimately makes the experience a hollow one.

Director Guillermo del Toro is known for his wonderful imagination and abilities as a filmmaker – demonstrated in  signature works like Pan’s Labyrinth and the Hellboy movies – and Pacific Rim is alive and crackling with some of his best work. From the robot and monster designs, to the well-staged battle sequences and overall concept, Pacific Rim is something uniquely its own within the crowded genre of summer blockbusters (this is no Transformers – and I mean that in the best way), while still (borrowing?)(Paying homage to?)(Stealing from?) a laundry list of other American and Japanese movies and TV series. (Read about a few of those possible inspirations HERE.)

Pacific Rim Gypsy Danger vs. Kaiju Level 4 Pacific Rim Review

Best of all, there’s a pervading sense of fun and  joy that the director has infused his passion project with; the goal is to entertain and entertain it does, for the most part (it does get cartoony, but that cartoon is still pretty fun). On the downside, there are plenty of moments that will indeed seem less like homages and more derivative copy of other films not necessarily even related to the “Kaiju/Mecha” sub-genre. See if you can catch those Independence Day and/or Deep Blue Sea moments and you’ll know the sort of “borrowing” I’m referring to.

The script – co-written by del Toro and Clash of the Titans scribe Travis Beacham – is not impressive. The story is straightforward enough, but an abundance of sub-plots often makes it feel scattered-brained. The emotional core and character development are even more unfocused: this is supposedly Raleigh and Mako’s story we are being told – and Hunnam and Kikuchi are both solid leads with solid chemistry – but beyond a couple of superficial dramatic moments, there is no real conflict between our central characters, and no real arc for them to complete as individual characters. In short: our protagonists are often the least interesting parts of the film, which inevitably means a sort of detached viewing experience.

Idris Elba in Pacific Rim 2013 Pacific Rim Review

Idris Elba in ‘Pacific Rim’

Oddly enough it is Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentecost who is the most dynamic character in Pacific Rim, and seems to get the most complete and engaging character arc of the whole ensemble. Elba (by now well established for his talent to stand out even in bit roles – see: Prometheus or Thor) walks away owning every one of the many scenes he’s in – which is great for him, but is also clear indication that the writers are not driving the story with full control of the wheel.

Subplots involving Charlie Day (Horrible Bosses) and Burn Gorman (Dark Knight Rises) as dueling expert scientists in the Kaiju field – or Max Martini (The Unit) and Robert Kazinsky (True Blood) as a conflicted father/son Jaeger team – similarly make good use of talented actors, at the expense of a focused, streamlined story. Hellboy star Ron Perlman exists in this movie purely to ham it up for his old pal del Toro, and does so admirably. (P.S.: don’t leave the theater before a special mid-credits scene.)

Chalie Day in Pacific Rim  Pacific Rim Review

Charlie Day in ‘Pacific Rim’

The mythos and world-building are well done, there’s the right touch of winking humor – but again, certain sub-plots (like an anti-Kaiju wall) are never followed to conclusion and come off as distraction. The actual mechanics of the sci-fi technology is hastily explained and then craftily circumvented, so that the many, many, gaps in logic and plot are not all that distracting from the enjoyment of watching a hulking robot slamming on freakish monsters.

The infusion of anime themes and tropes is balanced enough to distinguish the film from, say, Transformers, without veering too far into the more obtuse or abstract styles of storytelling that often discourage Western viewers from embracing anime. Del Toro’s imagination being what it is, this is “East meets West” in the best way possible.

Battle of Tokoyo in Pacific Rim Pacific Rim Review

The sound design is awesome – and by awesome I mean very, very, loud. Actual dialogue sometimes had a cavernous echo to it that made it hard to make out – but whether that was just my theater or the movie itself, I can’t say for sure. This is definitely an IMAX experience to be had; but the post-converted 3D, while very well done, doesn’t feel as necessary. A 2D IMAX experience would be more than sufficient – but if you are a big fan of the robot/monster stuff, the extra splurging will be worth it to you.

On the whole, Pacific Rim has its creator to thank for elevating it above so many similar and forgettable action blockbusters, through sheer creativity, love and force of will. While the storyline and emotional core aren’t strong, the action and spectacle are, and del Toro builds his world well enough to create plenty of future opportunities for re-visits, spin-offs, multi-media projects and everything else fans (and movie studios) love in a good fanboy franchise.

517845197 3 620 439 Pacific Rim Review

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Pacific Rim is now in theaters. It is 131 minutes long and is Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief language.

If you want to discuss the film without ruining it for others, head over to our Pacific Rim SPOILERS DISCUSSION. To hear the Screen Rant editors discuss the film amongst themselves, stay tuned for the Pacific Rim episode of the Screen Rant Underground Podcast.

Our Rating:

3 out of 5

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  1. Hmmm, okay, still up beat, come on John keep the faith….

    The thing that i was worrying about turns out to be a valid concern but if the action and the designs are as awesome as they’ve been looking, can i let it override a crappy script and disjointed central plot.

    Co-written by Del Toro, english not his first language so may miss some of the nuance and Travis Beacham who served up that mess that was Clash.

    Always afraid of the script/story, tried not to be, but lurking at the back of the mind that little voice.

    The concept is bulletproof and fanboy perfect but the rest is needed as well.

    Still will return on Monday after I’ve seen it for myself in 3D IMAX.

    Oh the wall thing features in the prequal comic, the Jaeger project was scaled down/cancelled to fund this wall, it’s was partially completed so be interesting what part it has to play in the film and help place the comic’s timeline.

    • The script isn’t crappy per se, but it’s definitely cartoony. I actually thought it was intentional.

      • I thought it was blatantly cartoony. I liked that about it. As I was watching I felt like I was watching an anime converted to live action.

        • Yeah, it was intentional. I liked it too. I actually got into the characters more than I thought, but I thought they could have sharpened things up a bit, and let go of developing so many different characters and interactions.

          What I liked was how much I felt that the robots “were” the pilots. The action felt very physical and meaningful in that way.

        • Ghost in the shell…anyone? Akira? But at some point I loved that about the film…it was watching little pieces of my fave anime movies into a big CGI adventure! Awesome!

    • Okay been out the cinema about 5 mins so still buzzing and trying to get my thoughts together.
      First things first. This film is awesome. There’s reviews and stuff about there being no emotion in this and the human element is a bit week… really??
      Me and a few others were weeping like babies at points during this film. Yes most of the emotion comes when Idris is on the screen and they totally earn the apocalypse speech.
      Don’t get the comments about story elements being disjointed seemed to flow for me, no problem tracking and predicting the plot points.
      Only wish we saw a bit more of the other Jeagers in action but this is about Gypsy so it’s right she should be front and centre. Good use of 3D for mood effect
      Loved the shoots of Gypsy walking through Hong Kong…. had the Die-X music running through my head, AWESOME

    • One other thing. Idris Elba is THE best actor around at the moment.
      Give him a character piece for the oscar crowd and he’s a shoe in.
      Roll on his portrayal of Nelson Mandela, Elba for Oscar

  2. Great review, Kofi. I saw in a few other reviews the complaint that some of the action scenes are hard to decipher and most take place when it’s dark and stormy. Did you find that to be a problem?

  3. I like reading your stuff Kofi, I really do. Methinks on this one your rating somewhat contradicts the review you gave…

    … I haven’t seen the movie yet, so I’m not disagreeing with the rating. I’m just saying 3.5 stars is not the impression that I get from this review, especially when you close the review referring to the film as a “fanboy franchise” which isn’t exactly flattering and suggests that the audience appeal will be pretty limited.

    • Did he change the review score? It says 3 out of 5 stars now.

      • haha never mind i should have looked down a little further.

  4. I saw this last night and while the visual aspects were good the rest fell flat. The script was just average at best and the action was okay. The action scenes were alright but was hard to follow when the night/rain scenes were on. I am a huge Del Toro fans but felt disappointed. The “everything else” flaws was just too big for me to overlook. This film will be like Prometheus. The diehard fan boys that support Del Toro no matter what will love the film and everyone else will find either just ok or they will think it’s the dumbest movie ever. I think I fall in the “just ok” category

  5. I agree that the review is at odds with the score. I’m dropping it to 3 to reflect that.

    • Seems more inline with what you wrote, for sure.

      I’m still going to check this film out tonight. Giant robot death machines punching giant alien monsters in their giant alien faces is enough for me to buy a ticket.

  6. Damn….I love del Toro but that’s everything I was afraid of happening with this movie. Doesn’t sound like its my thing

  7. I knew it wasn’t going to be that great.

  8. Its still a lot of fun, and the special effects rock, just every human element is poor

    • Transformers poor?

      • No not transformers poor, but i found hunham really flat and charlie day and the other scientist annoying as hell. I just felt nothing story or acting wise came together

      • Actually Transformers is a good comparison. Heavy on the explosions, visual effects, action but poor on everything else

  9. I really suggest you go see the movie and make up you OWN opinion, this is only one person’s review.
    ‘I heard this…I read that…’
    “But, have you seen the movie?”
    ‘Well no, but I saw this webpage that…’
    You get my drift…

    • I saw the movie and unfortunately the reviews are pretty spot on. The visuals are top notch but everything else just falls flat and this is coming from a Del Toro fan. I had high hopes for this movie but the script and plot of this movie is just average at best.

  10. Wow, so many sheep on this website who’ll listen to what someone else says about a film they want to watch and dictate their choice. *sigh*

  11. Wow, totally DISAGREE with giving this movie 3 stars. I saw this movie yesterday, and while my expectations were not that high, I was totally blown away. I would say this is more in the 4 star range, expecially considering that Man of Steel received 4 stars on this website- and that imo is at most a 3 star movie.

    This movie imo, had great pacing, a great story, great action, lots of heart, and a very unique approach to the whole alien invasion genre. To me,this is a classic and stands out on its own due to its originality.

    Very surprised and very pleased at the outcome of this movie, highly recommend and hope to see future installments as pleasant as the first

    • The film’s world is engrossing, but the reviewer is right, the characters were unfocused and none of them had a complete arc in which to invest the viewer. I think they deliberately gave us just enough character development to engage us in the larger conflict, but the interpersonal emotional dynamics were lacking. Ultimately, Pacific Rim has an average script to work with, but del Toro elevates the material through sheer passion. Nevertheless, there is so much to like about the film that it is quite easy to forgive it for its sins. I thought it had a lot of heart and I had a great time with it and will probably go see it again sometime this weekend. Pacific Rim deserves to be seen.

    • I saw this last night and I must agree with the reviewer unfortunately(coming from a Del Toro fan). The action and visual/CGI effects were just awesome except on some dark night scenes but the storyline and character development was just average. Based on what I saw last night I will use the Prometheus analogy. The fans of Del Toro will love the film but to the average person they will think that they could have waited until the DVD just based on half of the people walking out during the movie and the other half stayed but some looked just disappointed.

  12. I really enjoyed “Pacific Rim”. Yes, the central story and the character development left a lot to be desired, but the special effects and the fight scenes combined were enough for me to give it a 4 out of 5. It is a fantastic and fun summer movie. I went in hoping for giant robots fighting giant monsters and in that regard it surpassed my expectations. The trailers never try to sell it on being anything more than what it ultimately is, and I appreciate getting what I was promised.

  13. A little bummed that the script isn’t too strong but I’m sure it’s still entertaining as hell so I’ll check it out very soon. Seems like the perfect film to watch in theaters.

  14. “gaps in logic and plot are not all that distracting from the enjoyment of watching a hulking robot slamming on freakish monsters.”

    Cut the bullsh*t people! Did you really want them to explain actually mechanics of the robots? Are you mechanical engineers or film critic? If they practically explained it then you would not have understood it so cut that sh*t out.

    Since the Dark Knight Returns every one on the planet is always whining about plot holes. I guess we should also see them sh*t, shower, and shave in every fims also. Grow up people.

  15. Wow It really saddens me that you gave this movie only 3 stars. i was sure… I was so sure you would give it a 4. I was blown away. It was an amazing film.

  16. I really liked this movie. I suggest you all watch it and make up your own minds, instead of following the words of a single reviewer. I’d give it a 4 out of 5. Watch it.

    • For those that are on the fence, if you are not going to watch the movie on the merits of your own opinion at least read a high praising reviews for the movie just to hear the other side. I mean it’s not like Pacific Rim is being Panned across the board. Rotten Tomatoes has it at 73%… 119 good reviews compared to it’s 43 bad ones.

      I beg that you do this. I was blown away by this film and honestly I don’t think it was a soulless action packed film, for me the human parts where just as great as the mech kaiju battles. This is a movie that you have to see for your self and I think Del Toro has done enough good in his past to earn your trust.

      • It certainly was not soulless. It had plenty of heart and emotion. It’s just that, compared to the fantastically executed action sequences, the other elements including character development are fairly abbreviated and not nearly as finely-crafted. But I would say that, if you are already thinking that you might want to go see this film, you definitely should.

  17. What disappoints me is that del Toro could’ve did it like Nolan and pushed the boundaries of the genre. I get it this is sort of a homage to anime but at times it feels to much like anime and I mean all the bad stuff about anime like corny dialogue. And I felt that, if they couldn’t come up with a good explanation for the alien attack or how the Jaeger science, then they shouldn’t have bothered. Just say that the aliens attacked, we built giant robots [fullstop]. I’m perfectly fine with that. No need to come up with some bullsh*t science behind it. And I thought the whole “drift” thing would make this movie more than just about giant robots but in the end it fell flat. It wasn’t explored enough and wasn’t emotional enough. Overall, I think del Toro played it safe.

    But don’t get me wrong! I love the giant robots and the kid in me is still giggly over the experience. They could probably make a whole franchise out of this like The Fast & The Furious franchise. We’re here to see giant robots, storytelling be damned.

    • I agree. The explanation felt like they just threw it together without really thinking about it. The cheesy lines felt like I was watching Revenge of the Fallen again. Granted you had the Robots vs. giant Godzilla like monsters but that only takes you so far. It’s like saying IM3 deserves a 4 star rating based on the effects even though the storyline was weak. I love Del Toro but come on people, I expect more from the guy then this. If he is solely going to focus on the visuals then he needs to just be responsible for just that aspect of the movie. With him deciding to be associated to that debacle of the movie Mama and now this I am slowly losing confidence that he can deliver an epic movie. I was upset about Del Toro not being involved in taking the rings for The Hobbit but after watching this movie last night I am kind of glad he wasn’t the main guy

      • I take it you mean del Toro was caught up in other projects and Pacific Rim was rushed. Hmm.. that’s something to consider too. I didn’t know he did a movie called Mama. But I think at the very least, he didn’t insult our intelligence like Michael Bay. Oh, and he knew where to point his camera. But yeah, he probably shouldn’t have been involved with the script.

        Lol, why are some people complaining over another half star? Since when was 3/5 a bad rating? I think 3/5 is fair. 3, 3.5, what’s the difference? Just go watch it for the robots vs monsters action.

    • I don’t think Nolanizing a movie like this would have helped it any (this coming from a rabid Nolan fan). The tone of this movie is about light hearted fun, and that’s what I got out of it. The point is we enter the world that’s already been dealing with this crisis for some time, not like an origin story where every motivation needs to be explained. Whether you buy into it or not, I think the point is, we built giant robots because conventional weapons either didn’t work or caused too much collateral damage(can’t exactly nuke a fast moving target or a city every time, with the frequency of attacks, you’d be out of cities to live in). I do wish they developed the drift a bit more and gave the other jaegar teams at least 1 scene of character development.

      • Haha, what I said is open to interpretation. My point is, del Toro could have taken everything good about anime and mecha lore and giant monsters and made it better. Put his own interpretation into it. Whether he does it like Nolan is debatable, but yeah, I agree Nolan’s style would be too dark. But I feel the movie was too anime-like. I guess anime fans would love this movie, no questions asked.

        I’m glad you agree the “drift” thing could have been explored more. When I first saw the trailer for Pacific Rim, I thought this was just going to be about giant robots. But when I heard about the drift thing I thought it was going to be something more, but turns out del Toro didn’t want to flesh that out a lot. And the two other Jaegers had so little screen time. These were supposed to be teams who defended their cities without incident FOR YEARS. I guess they never met a Category 4 before. Is it fair to say the budget was a constraint? Is $200 million small?? We know why most of the scenes were set at night and in rain. Hey, did you notice the Kaijus were rendered rather poorly in the beginning of the movie? I was like.. wtf, this is like Godzilla (1999) quality here.

  18. Personally, I have been really disappointed with the movies that I have seen this summer. With all the very high expectations and buzz, I was disappointed. Maybe it was over excitement. So, with Pacific Rim, I tries to leave my expectations behind and thoroughly enjoyed it.
    Definitely recommended…. Monsters v Robots. SOLD!!!

  19. This movie was great. I am a fan boy though so my view may be skewed. I did take my wife though and she is all about character development and she liked it too. 5 stars from me 4 from her. Go see it!

  20. For those that are on the fence, if you are not going to watch the movie on the merits of your own opinion at least read a high praising reviews for the movie just to hear the other side. I mean it’s not like Pacific Rim is being Panned across the board. Rotten Tomatoes has it at 73%… 119 good reviews compared to it’s 43 bad ones.

    I beg that you do this. I was blown away by this film and honestly I don’t think it was a soulless action packed film, for me the human parts where just as great as the mech kaiju battles. This is a movie that you have to see for your self and I think Del Toro has done enough good in his past to earn your trust..

  21. I saw the movie last night and loved it. Were the human elements “weak”? To a degree yes but they were effective. I grew up loving Godzilla, Gamara, Mothra etc and this was in that mold. It was like watching an updated “destroy all monsters” mixed with voltron. Go for the inner 8 year old inside of all of us

    • @Trevor.

      You and me both. My son actually liked it more than other movies he has seen this summer.

  22. The movie did something, that Transformers Dark of the Moon, The Avengers, Man of Steel and every other movie where destruction is on a massive scale.

    They actually took time to put in the Gipsy Danger stepping over the walkway bridge. Yeah, I know “Where the hell did that come from?”

    But the movie was from a point of view, NOT EVERYTHING HAS TO GET DESTROYED OR CRUSH.

    Why was it so dark with the action? You expect bright sunny days and rainbows when the human race is on the verge of being wiped out?

    • “Why was it so dark with the action?” For anyone wondering that, do you have any idea how much cheaper it is to create special effects at night than in the complete detail of day light? Obviously, they put a lot of those scenes at night for budget reasons.

  23. Decent review, and I agree on some points.. But after seeing it last night I must say I was pretty happy with the film. No matter what big names are attached to a film like this, it is what it is.. A giant robot sci-fi brawler.. And I think it did all that it needed to do and then some. I went in with little expectation on story and character development and actually came away surprised at some of the little elements they added. Was the acting stellar? Nope.. But it was far from the worst I’ve seen on screen (Tobey Maguire I’m talking to you) The creature design I thought was impressive, working in characteristics of several different animals (not going to spoil it)it was a tad dark at some points, but the fights had me literally on the edge of me seat a few times. My main gripes would be that I wanted to know more about the other pilots (triplets & the Russians) and I really didn’t like Charley as the scientist..

  24. I was most concerned about Charlie Hunnam
    and it is a relief to see he does hold up his end.

    A weak script is always a disappointment but the
    visual extravaganza offered here mitigates against
    those failings making it easier to just ride over them.

    One should think getting the story tight and right from
    the start is the first priority but with so much going
    on Del Toro might have spread himself to thin.

    Great balance review, Kofi, and I share your sense of hoping
    this was better while happy that is more than good enough.
    I intend to watch this in the spirit offered and enjoy it.

    As a side note, I could tell this review was written by you, Kofi.
    I think you have achieved what every writer strives for
    and that is a distinctive style that is your own.

  25. What bugs me is that over the past at least decade. More people think action movies and sci-fi movies have to have a deep delveing plot. Like it has to be some sort of oscar contender drama. This is a sci-fi movie, people shouldnt expect the caliber writeing of those style of movies. Its a special effects extravaganza, a popcorn movie. Enjoy it for what it is. Thats what I intend on doing.

    • Kudos to that sir.

    • I would have agreed last decade. I believe things changed in the cinema, I’m happy sci-fi isn’t simply looked at as a popcorn flick but something more, just like what’s happening with superhero movies. It makes the film that much more enjoyable, especially after several viewings. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy popcorn flicks just as much as the next guy, I love Roland Emmerich and a few others but there’s also several story elements in sci-fi that can push the boundaries into new terrain that were originally dominated by indie films or dramas.

    • So in general with that theory then, Transformers should be taken for what it is as just a popcorn movie and we just shouldn’t care about the plot/script of the movie? So should the remake of Total Recall? It’s just a popcorn movie right and the people who critize the movie for having no type of real charcter development or detailed storyline are just overreactiing? Wow, I love Del Toro but even I am not giving him a pass. I agree the visual effects was the best I’ve seen this year but that’s just not enough for me to give him a pass anymore.

  26. I don’t understand the logic behind the reasoning of this review.

    If I want deep, evolving character development and story, I’ll see a DRAMA film.

    If I want action and have my senses overwhelmed, I’ll see an ACTION film. Not to say the latter can’t have a decent script, but this clearly wasn’t the main focus of Toro’s gem; nor should of it have been.

  27. 3/5 is good enough for me. I wasn’t expecting anything earth shattering from the script. I’m going in with what I took from the trailers. Robots beating the crap out of monsters. Del Toro is a great visual director so I’m sure the “spectacle” part will be more than worth the ticket. Just pure entertainment.

    • Well if it will add to you excitement for the movie there are people out there, myself included, that have concluded after watching the film that del toro crafted a movie that posses both great character development and action. His skill really shows all throughout the film. There is depth.. there are even fun irrelevant moments solely meant to add personality to the film which many formulaic action movies lack.

  28. “The script – co-written by del Toro and Clash of the Titans scribe Travis Beacham – is not impressive. The story is straightforward enough, but an abundance of sub-plots often makes it feel scattered-brained.”

    Agreed. Wait for video.

    • No no no! You need to see it on a big screen. Watching it on a TV will do nothing for you. This is definitely a theater movie.

    • I agree. I could have waited for the DVD. Is it good? Yes. Is it theater good? No. I’ll would save that for something better coming up

  29. You guys were expecting oscar worthy performances? lol give me a break, it’s just a popcorn flick, nothing more.