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Movie Review: "Pracific Rim"

CCurmudgeon logo newBY VAN ROBERTS

“Hellboy” director Guillermo del Toro and “Clash of the Titans” scenarist Travis Beacham have caught Michael Bay and his “Transformers” franchise napping with “Pacific Rim.”   This entertaining but formulaic nonsense amalgamates science fiction with horror in an apocalyptic adventure epic that pits humans in giant robots against “Godzilla” monsters from another galaxy.   Imagine “Godzilla” meets “Robot Jox,” and you’ll have a good idea what to anticipate from “Pacific Rim.”  When you aren’t laughing yourself silly at the doomsday premise of mankind tangling with alien behemoths from another universe, you may find yourself caught up in the melodramatic, larger-than-life, aggression.   Basically, “Pacific Rim” (*** OUT OF ****) amounts to a showdown between towering robots and amphibious leviathans that challenge each other on both land and sea.   Just because you haven’t swamped a bathtub lately with a rubber ducky in one fist and a huge plastic robot in the other doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy this boisterous Armageddon.   Comparatively, between the heroic humans and the “Jurassic Park” style monsters, del Toro creates more municipal destruction than both “The Avengers” and “Man of Steel.”   Skyscrapers topple like dominos, and gigantic creatures storm through a number of largely populated Pacific rim properties like tornadoes.   In the hands of a talent lesser than del Toro, who also helmed “Blade 2,” “Pacific Rim” might not have been so amusing.   Indeed, “Pacific Rim’s” biggest asset isn’t its impressive CGI gargantuan combatants, but its quirky sense of humor.   Meantime, the biggest obstacle this outlandish epic must hurdle is its largely anonymous cast.   Aside from veterans like Ron Pearlman and Idris Elba, who support rather than lead, nobody qualifies as a celebrity.   Leading man Charlie Hunnam has made one above-average thriller “Deadfall” and appeared in 70 episodes of “Sons of Anarchy” as Jackson ‘Jax’ Teller.   Anybody who loved Steve McQueen will notice a stunning resemblance between the “Bullitt” star and Hunnam.   Hunnam replicates all of McQueen’s physical gestures, but his hair looks a mite long.   Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi plays Hunnam’s feisty co-star, and they wind up sharing more than merely physical space in this rock ‘em sock ‘em saga.   The beauty of unknowns in a mega-budget outing like “Pacific Rim” is you’re never certain whose going to survive.245941id1b_PacRim_1sided_120x180_2p_400.indd
This fast-paced, 130-minute, sci-fi spectacle takes place about seven years from now in 2020.   The worst thing that we face as a society then isn’t suicidal terrorists.   Instead, it’s the Kaiju — enormous, dinosaur-like, creatures from another dimension that emerge from a breach in the ocean floor to stomp the smithereens out of San Francisco, Manila and Cabo San Lucas.   Initially, mankind tried to destroy these supernatural mega-beasts with conventional weapons.  Unfortunately, more powerful weapons were required to repulse these pugnacious predators.   All the scenes with the monsters trashing cities will evoke memories of those vintage Japanese “Godzilla” movies as well as the 1998 American remake with Matthew Broderick.   Eventually, mankind cooperates on a global basis and constructs an army of huge, 25-foot high, humanoid metal com-bots with cannons and lasers called Jaegers.  Two pilots in tandem operate these man-made monsters with each serving as opposing neural hemispheres.   Like the monsters, the Jaegers can ‘take a licking and keep on ticking’ in the drink as well as on land.   The pilots wear space suits, wield their two minds as one in “Star Trek” mind-meld fashion, and control their robot from a sophisticated Wii platform built into the head-piece of the hulk.   Two pilots are required for a Jaeger because one pilot cannot perform the tasks required without suffering long-term side-effects.   When these robots are being prepared for combat, they must establish a neural link between their minds so their memories and consciousness are bonded together by the onboard hardware.   As it turns out, Earth succeeds in repulsing their creatures.  Nevertheless, the Kaiju haven’t tossed in the celestial towel.   They come back for one last fracas, and the best of the Jaegers confront them in a life and death struggle in the north Alaskan Seas.   Brothers Yancy (Diego Klattenhoff of “After Earth”) and Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) wade into icy waters against the orders of their superior, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba of “Thor”), to save a fishing vessel from the Kaiju.  This Kaiju has a surprise in store for them when it rips the head-piece off the Jaeger and pulls Raleigh’s brother Yancy out.  Stunned and injured during the toe-to-toe fray, Raleigh manages to bring the Jaeger home and quits the program.  He is a hull of his former self now that his brother is gone.  The Jaeger program isn’t far from extinct itself.  The powers that be have decided that walls are the answer to the Kaiju.  Every metropolis on the Pacific rim sets out to erect impenetrable walls.  Unfortunately, nobody told the Kaiju, and they smash through these immense walls like a blow torch through butter.  Stacker searches for Raleigh and finds him toiling on a wall.  Later, he introduces him to Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), and they assure Raleigh that he can pilot another Jaeger.  Stacker’s scientists, Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day of “Horrible Bosses”) and Gottlieb (Burn Gorman of “Layer Cake”), are furiously working on ways to destroy these creatures when Mako announces she is the ideal candidate to help Raleigh operate a Jaeger.  Stacker is initially hesitant to let her to double team with Raleigh, but she wins him over to her side.
“Pacific Rim” boasts more than just a bunch of robots battling prehistoric looking monsters.  Charlie Day steals the show as a berserk scientist who looks like Christian Slater crossed with Rick Moranis and brays like a jackass.  Burn Gorman and he have a field day playing psychotic scientists.  At one point, Dr. Geiszler decides to mind-meld with a fragment of a Kaiju’s brain and realizes that Stacker’s strategy of using a Jaeger to drop a nuclear device down the Pacific Ocean portal from whence the monsters emerge isn’t going to work.  “Pacific Rim” is a blast from fade-out to fade-in.

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