I’ve been pretty forgiving this summer, enjoying a lot of movies other people seem to be bagging. I was called “downright certifiable” for enjoying “The Lone Ranger,” and I seemed to be the lone critic out there pleading for sanity when people crucified M. Night Shyamalan’s “After Earth.”
As I’ve said a million times: I believe in average. Eighty percent of the movies this year will fall into the category of being a little better-than or a little less-than average. In fact, it’s always been that way. Sure, there are more franchises and sequels being shoved into an overcrowded marketplace, but I believe we need to get away from the idea that movies have become nothing more than over-budgeted piles of junk.
Speaking of over-budgeted piles of junk, let’s talk “Pacific Rim.” A moronically simple movie, this film seems tailor-made for an 8-year-old watching Saturday-morning cartoons. It’s grand in scope and microscopic in brains, with the emotional depth of a puddle of piss. And those 8-year-olds must have been in charge of directing the actors, too. There is some truly heinous work going on inside “Pacific Rim”—the kind of terrible acting that makes one wonder if Director Guillermo del Toro (“Hellboy,” “Pan’s Labyrinth”) had interest in anything other than giant monsters fighting giant robots.
We get the entire backstory in an extended opening sequence. A rift opens up at the bottom of the “Pacific Ocean.” Monsters, or “Kaiju,” come through and terrorize cities—giant Godzilla-like monstrosities intent on ending humanity. In order to combat these terrors, the governments of the world unite and start building massive skyscraper-sized robots called “Jaegers.” These monster-fighting machines require two pilots who have to establish a psychic connection in order to maintain control. At first, it appears to be working, but then the monsters begin to get smarter and more cunning. Before we know it, we’re down to four Jaegers and the odds for humanity’s survival begin to shrink exponentially.
That phrase—“before you know it”—gets used a lot. In this case, it is very apt. Five minutes into the movie, we learn about an inter-dimensional rift, Kaiju, Jaegers, and the war to defeat them. The entire thing is glossed over with the kind of quick cuts and rapid-fire pacing most movies use when trying to avoid depth of thought. “Pacific Rim” almost requires no audience to think. Because if they did, they’d start to wonder why anyone is showering praise on such shallow eye-candy.
We meet Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam), a cocky pilot who commands a Jaeger with his brother. Things go horribly wrong and Raleigh’s brother ends up being rather comically killed. This sends Raleigh into a tailspin of regret and shame that can only be quelled by taking menial work to build a giant sea wall. Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) commands the Jaeger army and has been told by his superiors that they are mothballing the program. He has eight months to try and end this war. His adopted daughter, Mako (Rinko Kikuchi), dreams of being a Jaeger pilot, but her tragic past makes her too emotional for the kind of difficult mental conditioning required for the job.
I figured out within one hour of watching that this was “Hot Shots”—the comedy that parodied “Top Gun.” Charlie Hunnam was playing a variation of Charlie Sheen’s Topper Harley, the gifted, rebellious pilot who was too headstrong to be a military man.
Idris Alba, an actor who I really love, was channeling the most ludicrous version of Lloyd Bridges’ commander. Charlie Day, (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) as a mad scientist, was almost a walking-talking version of Wash Out played by John Cryer.
Don’t get me wrong: There was actually some good acting going on in “Top Gun” but not in “Hot Shots.” I can’t recall the last time I saw so much terrible acting in a $200 million studio film. (Oh, wait:“Battleship.”)
There are so many logical inconsistencies. Why are the Jaegers the only things used to fight the monsters? Don’t we have a few 100,000 planes, boats, helicopters and nuclear missiles at our disposal? Was it really all that smart for the world government to use all their resources on giant Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots instead of a military strategy that doesn’t involve putting a trillion-dollar line of defense into a hand-to-hand combat situation? And I could go on and on…
“Pacific Rim” not only asks us to suspend disbelief but all logic and reason. There are some excellent scenes of robots fighting monsters, but they’re fleeting moments. Bad acting, ridiculous character names, one-dimensional supporting characters who have no reason to exist other than to fill in B stories.
Guillermo del Toro may be the most over-praised director working today. He makes really pretty cartoons with no heart, soul or personality. “Pacific Rim” is less than average—a monster movie with no teeth.
Starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Alba, Charlie Day
Directed by Guillermo del Toro