Pacific Rim Dazzles and Excites, but Could Do a Lot More

Pacific Rim Review

Pacific Rim is a movie that wants so desperately to be brilliant. It almost achieves it. It's a long drawl of ham-fisted drama, standard and forced plot lines, and unbelievable characters, but I'm sad to say that "unbelievable" is used in the "I don't believe that this is how any person would act in this situation" -sense. Of course, that's not to say Pacific Rim isn't enjoyable. It really is quite enjoyable. It isn't meant to be Citizen Kane or Being John Malkovich; it's a fun, special effects-saturated popcorn summer film. It just doesn't seem to know that.

The Plot

Pacific Rim Locandina
Pacific Rim Locandina (Photo credit: Debris2008)
The story is far from anything special. It seems to be lifted directly from the anime from which it borrows its style - that is, big robots fighting big monsters with at least a bit of Japanese flavour. The premise is simple - corpulent alien monsters known as "Kaiju" travel to Earth for seemingly no other reason than to wreak havoc on the planet and its inhabitants while the citizens of Earth develop large, militant robots called "Jaegers" to combat them, two pilots per machine. The incredibly generic twenty-something hometown boy is befallen by a great tragedy on a mission, he retires, and is reluctantly called back to arms five years later. The rest of the movie focuses on character development and is surprisingly light on action. Normally this would serve a great plot, but the plot is light and the characters are hammy and poorly-written. Pacific Rim excels in its action and special effects, so the long exposition hurts the film more than it helps.

The Characters

The film tries to make the audience feel for the characters with fervent situations and heavy-handed drama, but it tries to get away with it without really exploring the characters well enough. I just met these pilots, they've had a total of ten lines each, so why would I care about their tragedies so early in the film? Characters that have lighter roles, like the science team, are fun to watch in their eccentricities but don't come across as people who might actually exist; much of the film breaks immersion with characters who are completely over-the-top comic book caricatures. Overly gruff voices, one-dimensional cardboard cut-outs and seemingly useless characters are plentiful in this movie. It's nice to see Always Sunny funny-man Charlie Day taking on a role different from his usual fare, even if it isn't very well-acted. Of course, you can only do so much with half-effort writing, so perhaps it isn't his fault.

The Positives

It may at this point seem like my opinion of Pacific Rim is all negative, but I want to assure you that the film has many positive aspects. The action is but one. While more than half of Pacific Rim is flat characters manufacturing drama and faking revelations, what action there is, is awe-inspiring. The sense of scale itself is breathtaking, but these hulking colossi actually fight each other in a manner that puts Godzilla and Gundam to absolute shame. It's bombastic and purposefully cinematic, but it is brilliantly choreographed and fun to watch. Every punch is satisfying, every hit feels powerful, and every shot to the Jaeger machines will have you biting your nails in dire suspense. The film put almost all of its large Hollywood budget into the action, but it's well-spent.

Special effects in the movie are, again, put to excellent use in the fight scenes. The lumbering giants move as realistically as you would expect from a 500-foot-tall beast, physics are believable and water effects are as gorgeous as they are dramatic. The film is a theme park ride of color and motion, an absolute symphony or graphic arts. However, technology as it’s presented in the movie may be flashy and expected from sci-fi cinema, but anyone who has ever so much as checked email knows that computers and the simulations they run do not function like they do in Pacific Rim. Given how everything else in the film is over-the-top, it's not so much to ask for a little more suspension of disbelief in this area, but it would be nice to not have to suspend my disbelief.

Lastly, music is great. The score is standard bombastic big-budget orchestration, but every piece is a pleasure to listen to and appropriate to the scene which features it. It's not a soundtrack I feel compelled to own, but it's brilliantly fitting for Pacific Rim.


Pacific Rim is, and I normally hate using this word, epic. It's excellently directed, it's magnificently choreographed, and it's good, simple fun. I'm hard-pressed to say I really need anything more from a summer flick. If you can look past razor-thin depth in your film's writing and over-acted characters, you'll find a lot to enjoy in Pacific Rim. You just have to remember going into it that it's a movie that excels in stimulating your senses, not the higher functions of your brain. Keep in mind that it's nothing more than a dancing light show and you'll have a ton of fun; I guarantee it.

About Lucy

Lucy James writes for Netflixor Lovefilm, comparing the best home movie streaming companies in the UK.

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