Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro’s ode to everything a twelve-year-old boy might love, is a massively entertaining film if you’ve ever wanted to see giant robots wrestle with Godzilla-style monsters. Every effects shot is done with such loving detail that it’s the sort of film that’s absolutely perfect for home viewing. If you like it, you’ll want to watch it (or the choice parts) over and over again, because there’s so little else out there like it. My review of Pacific Rim on Blu-ray follows after the jump.
The movie stars Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket, who comes to the fore as a person who can pilot a Jaeger, the skyscraper-high robots built to defeat the horde of Kaiju (aka giant monsters) that have been invading our planet through a rift in the Pacific ocean. At first he pilots with his brother, but during a particularly nasty Kaiju attack his brother is killed, and Raleigh decides to retreat from that world. Years later, his old boss Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) wants him back in a Jaeger. In the intervening years, the Jaeger program has suffer major setbacks, and the world is more interested in wall building than giant robots, even though the walls don’t seem to work, so the few who still pilot Jaegers are a dying breed. When Raleigh comes back there are only four working robots, and he still needs a co-pilot.
In the world of Jaegers, it takes two people whose brains are linked up to operate the machine, and not all people can work together as when one syncs up, the pilots enter “the drift” where all thoughts and memories merge. The best candidate to work with Raleigh is Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), but Pentecost is reluctant to put her behind the wheel, something proven by her first drift with Raleigh. Also working with the resistance are two scientists, Gotlieb (Burn Gorman) and Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day). Geiszler wants to drift with a Kaiju to figure out what they’re thinking and how to attack the rift they come from, as closing the rift is considered the only way to stop the monsters. And so Newton goes to Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman) to find a fresh Kaiju brain. When the attacks started, each Kaiju was ranked, and now the monsters have moved to level four difficulty, with a level five not far away, and each new battle not only puts wear on the remaining machines, the monsters have gotten smarter about how to attack.
One of the big things del Toro and co-writer Travis Beacham realized as they were making this is that they wanted it to be familiar, but without obvious signifiers. And if the film suffers, it’s that Raleigh isn’t as an appealing avatar for the audience as Luke Skywalker was. The movie’s secret is that the lead character, the most awesome character, is played by Rinko Kikuchi as she steals the film. But they also have Idris Elba to play with, and Elba knows exactly what kind of movie he’s making, and how to be that leader.
Though the film was post-converted into 3D, what’s apparent in any dimension is that the effects work on this film, especially in regards to how they establish scale, is mind-blowing. Yes, it’s a whole lot of pixels attacking other pixels, but rarely is effects work this engaging. It helps that this is what VFX should be designed for, while del Toro mixes in practical effects as often as he can. The film may be no more or less than a lightshow, but it’s a spectacular one at that. The narrative may be familiar, and certain moments are going to be obvious by the nature of the story, but that never gets in the way, the set backs and struggles are never cloying or obvious, these clichés are strangely pleasant. The makers know that they’re not reinventing the wheel with this story, the fun is getting to the action sequences, which the film parses out well, and del Toro makes each fight distinct and with greater odds for each new battle.
If there’s a problem with Pacific Rim, it’s that del Toro, who’s a pretty incredible filmmaker, is making a summer blockbuster that’s just as empty headed as most summer movies, but the difference here is that he does it better than almost anyone. He and everyone involved designed a great fun rollercoaster with characters, no more or less.
And it’s great that the Blu-ray edition of the film is spectacular looking. The 2D Blu-ray edition of the film comes with a DVD and digital copy, while the film is presented in widescreen (1.78:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. And this is the best reference disc in a while. The picture is sharp and the color is excellent, while the surround mix is phenomenal. This is a picture that deserves to be watched on the biggest screen at the highest volume and it delivers.
The supplements are mostly good. The film comes with a commentary by Guillermo del Toro, and he had a lot of fun making this film, which you can hear, and he’s great at sharing details of the making of the film, and just rambling on. It’s a great track. The first disc also comes with 13 “Focus Points” (62 min.), and though this features many cast interviews, the supplements mostly focus on the effects work, and what went into to creating the Kaiu, the Jaegers and the Shatterdome.
Disc two kicks off with “The Director’s Notebook,” which is a still gallery of the designs and workings of del Toro as he was working on the film, and it’s followed by “Drift Space” (5 min.), which serves as a primer for the main characters in the movie. “The Digital Artistry of ‘Pacific Rim” (17 min.) walks through the visual effects process of creating the creatures and the tiny details that fill the frame. “The Shatterdome” offers random bits: there’s five animatic sequences (10 min), 12 Kaiju concepts, seven Jaeger concepts, two costume concepts and eight environment concepts. Also included are four negligible deleted scenes (4 min.) and a blooper reel (4 min.). The film did just well enough in the theater to open the door for a sequel, so if the film sells well enough on home video, that might be more incentive to make a follow up.