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Pacific Rim: Godzilla Rises Again

by Sandra Olmsted

Guillermo del Toro brings many of his unique touches to Pacific Rim, such as memories playing an important part in how the characters react. Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam), who lost his brother Yancy (Diego Klattenhoff) during a battle to save Anchorage, and Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), who, as a child, lost her entire family in an Kaiju attack on Japan and was rescued by Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba). They are no exception to del Toro’s use of overcoming memories and of children in danger.

After loosing his brother, Raleigh quits the Jaeger program to work on a giant wall defense. Years later, Pentecost recalls Raleigh to the multinational Jaeger force’s last 8 months of existence before being shelved in favor of other defense options.

Mainly Pacific Rim is about the world being attacked by reptilian Godzillas, called Kaiju, which mean giant beast in Japanese, and which are destroying the world’s major coastal cities. Of the many ways conceived to stop the Kaiju, the first is giant robots, Jaeger, which means hunter in German.

Powered by two-person teams whose thoughts are linked through “the Drift,” the robots are being phased. Other scientists advocate dropping a bomb through a dimensional rift in the ocean floor from which the Kaiju emerge because of what Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) calculates the increasing numbers and strength of Kaiju means for humanity. Some fringe scientists work on other theories, such as Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day), who collects salvaged Kaiju body parts like a fanboy does action figures, and who hopes to get a Kaiju brain so he can “drift” with it and understand them better. Once he drifts with large section of a less damaged brain, will he let the Kaiju know more about the human defenses than he learned about the Kaiju? Meanwhile, Raleigh and Mako make a natural fighting team who “drift” well, but Pentecost is protective of Mako and prevents the duo from piloting Raleigh’s old Jaeger, the repaired and upgraded “Gypsy Danger.” When bigger, badder Kaiju appear off Hong Kong coast, will Raleigh and Mako go into battle? Can a nuclear warhead be dropped into the dimensional rift begins? Will it destroy our world or the Kaiju’s?

There are some problems with the film. While the Kaiju are supposedly created via cloning, a pregnant Kaiju and her baby provide an important plot twist. The United States and Japan fighting off monsters together has some symbolism in terms of international relations, but it’s as murky as the bottom of the ocean. The talented international cast is underused and often the Jaeger teams from Russian, Chinese and Australian make little more than token appearances, which is a shame from thematic stand points and a performance ones. Finally, the film is extremely loud, and often the dialogue is screamed to no avail over sound effects and  Ramin Djawadi’s score as well.

On some positive notes, del Toro, who co-wrote with Travis Beacham, acknowledges the inspirations for his film: The Kaiju evolve in a natural way from giant turtles which pay homage to Ray Harryhausen’s creatures to glowing, modern monsters that nod toward the evolving technologies in creature creation. Evocative of another battle between men in machines and big monsters, the line “Today we are canceling the apocalypse!” sounds like the speech made by the US president in Independence Day. However, the rich subtextual mythology of sci-fi gets short shrift and don’t expect myth layering similar to Pan’s Labyrinth’s fairytale-esque images to provide depth and meaning to Pacific Rim.

The superb acting by a terrific cast make the storylines touched on between the big battles interesting. John Gilroy and Peter Amundson’s editing provide an intense, if little varying, pace, and cinematographer, Guillermo Navarro, lensing his first digital picture, provide masterful images.

Del Toro hits all the marks for the genre tropes expected in Pacific Rim, but manages at the same time to disappoint his audiences who expected more. However, special effects  achieve a realism never thought possible by kids on the living room floors and in matinee seats or by the makers of the films that inspired this movie.

Pacific Rim, a Warner Bros. release, is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief language  and runs 131 minutes.

More of Olmsted’s reviews can be found at


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