I walked out of Pacific Rim before it ended. Before you assume that I did this out of solidarity for Rex Reed, who I sort of defended last week, let me say that the situation couldn’t be more different. Reed walked out of V/H/S/2 after twenty minutes; although my eyes were glazed over with boredom within that same time span, I waited another hour and a half before leaving Pacific Rim. A critic who abandons a movie in the first act reveals a lot about himself. I hope that one who leaves with only twenty minutes left in the movie says a lot about the film.
I didn’t want it to be this way. Like many in the industry, I was really rooting for Pacific Rim to be a critical and financial success. In a Hollywood gun-shy about financing any original properties, Guillermo del Toro, a well-respected fantasy filmmaker, was able to finagle $180 million to make his original story of an interplanetary battle between giant aliens and robots. If the movie is a success, studios might be willing to take a chance on other filmmakers with big, original ideas.
Except for one thing: Pacific Rim is not original. Technically, it is not based on another creative property, but it reeks of the awful poll-tested, studio-driven, creativity-sapping Hollywood system that is churning out generic action blockbusters at a higher rate than ever. To his credit, del Toro does create an original mythology: in the near future, aliens emerge from the bottom of the ocean, where they’ve been hiding since the time of the dinosaurs. They destroy a few cities before mankind creates giant robots to fight them, controlled by two humans whose minds link up when they are in the machines so they can function as one.
There is certainly a foundation for some original storytelling in there, but any hints of originality are buried beneath endless inconsequential explosions and one-note characters with ridiculous names. There is Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam), who is mad because his brother died. He ends up working/flirting with Mako Mori, who is mad because her family died. They are supervised by Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), who is mad because…well, because he’s the boss, and the boss is always mad. Raleigh is one of the pilots in charge of driving the giant robots, and he screwed up once, so there are also a lot of other pilots who are mad at him. For good measure, we also get two nerdy scientists (Burn Gorman and Charlie Day, who is quickly turning into our generation’s Rick Moranis), who are always mad at each other.
To be fair to the filmmakers, all this anger has a purpose, as it fits the film’s ostensible theme of human triumph through community and collaboration; they have to be mad before they can get glad. Parties that start off hating each other end up working together. There are the scientists who put aside their differences to save the day, as well as the collaboration between nations that del Toro has spoken proudly of in interviews as an antidote to the typically jingoistic summer disaster movies. Then there is the whole concept of linking minds, which underlies the entire human defense of the planet.
It’s a nice idea, but the positive message gets overshadowed by the huge, destructive action sequences, a requisite for summer action movies these days. I wonder – what do we call a film that claims a message of community and harmony yet spends most of its time engaging in gleeful destruction? Inconsistent? Hypocritical? Or perfect for these times of hidden, bloodless warfare? Much like Man of Steel, World War Z, and Star Trek Into Darkness, millions die in Pacific Rim and only a couple have any impact at all. It’s the ultimate “who cares?” movie, putting lots of cool shit up on screen without bothering with that pesky little detail of creating a single, relatable character.
They may be fighting to save their own species, but Pacific Rim had me wishing for the end of the world, because then at least the movie would be over. Instead, I took matters into my own hands. I guess I simply cannot be impressed by special effects and explosions anymore. To answer the question asked in this post’s title, I walked out just before the final battle because I couldn’t take any more sound and fury that signified nothing.
My Rating: Skip it Altogether