‘Pacific Rim’ looks beautiful, but something is missing

'Pacific Rim' — Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
‘Pacific Rim’ — Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

There’s so much CGI goodness in Guillermo del Toro’s epic Pacific Rim that I’m willing to forgive much of its bland storytelling and one-dimensional characters. This monster feature is a hybrid of apocalyptic thriller and mega-death machine battles. It’s a dreamy movie for anyone who wanted to see large beasts punch each other in the middle of the ocean — and who doesn’t fit that category?

Charlie Hunnam plays Raleigh Becket and Diego Klattenhoff (from TV’s Homeland) plays Yancy Becket, two brothers with the unenviable task of saving the world from horrific monsters that emerge from the ocean. These creatures, called Kaiju by the humans, are monstrous, indeed. They instill fear in most people, but the humans have a defense mechanism called a Jaeger, essentially a giant robot powered by a person standing in its middle. There are obvious parallels to District 9 and Elysium.

Idris Elba is Stacker Pentecost, a military-minded man hellbent on Kaiju destruction, while Ron Perlman is Hannibal Chau, a man who profits from selling monster organs on the black market.

The movie, which runs little more than two hours, has a minimal plot structure. There are no in-depth discussions about why the monsters are in the ocean and how the technology for the mega-machines evolved. This is an action sci-fi flick heavy on CGI antics — that’s about it. And, to be honest, the CGI is some of the best to hit the big screen. The monsters are devilishly created, instilling righteous fear. The machines are slightly less impressive, mostly because they look and feel like a retread of other films (notably Transformers).

The acting is fairly wooden, especially from Elba who seems ready to make a cliche, rousing speech at any second. Perlman is the only one having fun with his role, much like he did in del Toro’s superior Hellboy films. Perhaps the worst offender is Charlie Day’s portrayal of Dr. Newton Geiszler, a character that attempts to tie together as many plot holes as possible before the two-hour duration runs out. It’s a stock character role that is reminiscent of the techie comedians so prevalent in the James Bond and Mission: Impossible movies.

Del Toro, who earns the title of visionary, has made his most “Hollywood” of films with Pacific Rim. It’s a special-effects extravaganza devoid of detail, characterization and an interesting plot. It looks great, but fails the test of being anything more than a way to enjoy CGI monsters battling CGI machines. Cool but shallow, indeed.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

  • Pacific Rim

  • 2013

  • Directed by Guillermo del Toro

  • Written by del Toro and Travis Beacham

  • Starring Charlie Hunnam, Diego Klattenhoff, Idris Elba and Ron Perlman

  • Running time: 131 minutes

  • Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief language

  • Rating: ★★½☆

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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