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Film review: PACIFIC RIM, from Built For Speed

Only if you mated a Great Dane with a Blue Whale could you create a bigger dog than Pacific Rim.  What could have been an exciting high-tech twist on global apocalypse films and old-school, Japanese-style monster movies turns out to be a moronic, clichéd, emotionally empty dud. Not only is this film dumb, devoid of tension and visually incoherent, it doesn’t even have the saving grace of being ironically funny like Armageddon.  The fact that it was directed by someone of the calibre of Guillermo Del Toro is staggering.

Buried somewhere in this mess is (sadly) a half-decent science fiction concept.  A vast fissure in the Pacific Ocean floor (hence the ambiguous title) turns out to be an inter-dimensional portal for giant alien monsters to enter Earth and wreak havoc.  After the monsters, or Kaiju, have squashed a few cities, humans construct enormous armoured robots called Yaegers, (which look remarkably like 1960’s cartoon automaton Gigantor) to fight them. Human pilots operate the Yaegers but because of the robots’ vast size and complexity, the metal behemoths can only be controlled by having two pilots’ minds melded into one alleged super brain.  This has the unusual effect of allowing the pilots to experience each other’s thoughts. Unfortunately, it seems that, in creating this movie, the filmmakers’ minds were melded with those of a 10-year-old boy as any hope of a serious exploration of these science fiction concepts is quickly trashed.

The resulting story is simply an embarrassing patchwork of references to other highly dubious films. There’s silly-ass, flag-waving pre-battle speeches reminiscent of Independence Day, laughable confrontations between hot-shot pilots that seem to have been inspired by Top Gun and dull, lumbering giant robot fight scenes that disturbingly recall Michael Bay’s Transformers films.  Also, anyone who was thoroughly sick of watching people being hurled through the air or ploughing through buildings in Man of Steel, will be horrified to know there’s more of that here, only with shonkier effects.  A few brief moments in this film reveal Del Toro’s unique and striking aesthetic sensibility but for the most part Pacific Rim looks like a computer game or even worse, a screen saver.

If that’s not bad enough, the Kaiju monsters look terrible! They’re a mix of sinewy, gangly loping Cloverfield-style creatures, beasties that really should be in one of those straight to DVD Mega-shark vs. Uber-octopus films and giant crabs that look as if they’re part of a shock-tactic film about sexually transmitted diseases.  Del Toro also deprives the monsters of a visceral organic appearance by giving them silly-looking fluorescent blood and body parts.

As dubious as they are, the CGI monsters are far more engaging and likeable than the human characters.  Rarely has a film hero had as little impact or screen presence as Charlie Hunnam does here as robot pilot Raleigh Beckett.  He comes across as a confused pretty-boy jock and makes previous cinematic heroes such as Flash Gordon’s Sam J Jones look like Laurence Olivier. Even The Wire’s Idris Elba, who plays the ludicrously named commander, Stacker Pentecost, is embarrassingly wooden. In their defence they have to contend with a turgid script full of appallingly clunky dialogue such as Elba’s immortal line “Today we cancel the apocalypse” a line Kevin Rudd might consider using.

There is no defence, though, for the shrill, Rob Schneider-like performances of Charlie Day as twitchy scientist Dr. Newton Geiszler and Burn Gorman as his manic, fidgeting offsider Gottleib. Ron Perlman also appears in a superfluous role as a kind of pimped-out Kaiju body parts trader. His role seems to have been stitched onto the film simply to include him. Even more embarrassing, though, are father and son pilots Max Martini and Robert Kazinsky who have the worst Australian accents in film history. Because the characters in Pacific Rim are so ridiculous it’s hard to form any emotional connection with them, consequently  there’s no sense of threat, tension or excitement in the mass destruction battle scenes involving the piloted robots.

If people must watch giant, manned robots battling alien monsters, they’re advised to dodge this disastrous film and instead, check out the Beastie Boys’ Intergalactic video.

 

Nick’s rating: 1 star.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Guillermo del Toro

Release date: 11th July 2013

Running time: 131 mins.

 

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