Guillermo del Toro usually brings his own unique designs to blockbuster filmmaking; Pacific Rim, surprisingly, feels more like a pastiche. It’s visually a hodge-podge of Godzilla, Neon Genesis Evangelion and the Matrix sequels, and is filled with overt references – there’s a Star Wars quote, and GLaDOS from Portal voices the film’s computers.
The lack of originality doesn’t suggest a lack of imagination. Pacific Rim regularly taps into that inner ten-year-old giddiness with exhilarating action sequences. Decades into the CGI era, there’s still the requisite night-time rain, but the Hong Kong setting allows the film to embrace a neon-soaked cyberpunk aesthetic. The kaiju (sea monsters) and jaeger (robots) have real heft – they feel immense, without the unreal fluidity of the Transformers films.
The narrative is predictable but adequate, providing real stakes and an emotional finale (and, thankfully, no sequel scaffolding). The cast generally acquit themselves well: Charlie Hunnam is the stoic everyman hero while Charlie Day provides some welcome comic relief. The standout is Idris Elba, delivering an commanding performance: he fleshes out his gruff, imposing admiral role into a character warranting admiration and sympathy.
Pacific Rim may not be original, but it’s a damn fine execution of the blockbuster formula.