Movie Review | Pacific Rim
Movie Summary: As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse. (IMDb)
Pacific Rim wasn't particularly well-received by audiences upon release, especially in the West. It took huge success in Asia - mainly China - for the film to barely qualify as a property worthy of a sequel. And that's a shame, as it really is a fun film.
That is the problem though: it's fun, and barely anything more. It's giant mechs against giant monsters in live-action (well, mainly CGI) rather than cartoon form and doesn't really do too much with that premise other than provide some quirky characters and city-destroying action scenes.
And the action is good, with the combatants feeling as large and heavy as they look, and their attacks coming across as powerful as you'd expect from such gigantic adversaries. The only real 'problem' is that, in an attempt to keep things as realistic as they can be in a film like this, there isn't a great deal variety to the action.
I put 'problem' in quote marks because I'm not entirely sure that pushing things further would have been better, with the sequel proving just how fine a line there is between making giant robots and monsters feel like actual physical presences or looking like weightless CGI entities.
As for the characters, they're both the source of Pacific Rim's greatest strengths and weaknesses. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman are great fun as squabbling scientists; and Ron Perlman, Max Martini and Robert Kazinsky are all fun in their supporting roles too.
None of them are particularly well-developed, as the focus isn't really on them, but their performances are all enjoyable to watch and certainly more than good enough for this type of movie. It would be easy to not take this material seriously, but they all are clearly putting in an effort to make the characters as believable as possible.
The real core of the movie is the relationship between Idris Elba's Stacker Pentecost and Rinko Kikuchi's Mako Mori. The age gap between the actors isn't anywhere near large enough for the displayed father-daughter relationship, but they make it work and you never question its authenticity for a minute.
In fact, they're so good together that the ostensible lead of the film, played by Charlie Hunnam, can't help but suffer in comparison. He doesn't do a bad job, but he doesn't really do anything special with his central role either.
Hunnam's character, Raleigh Becket, has more material to work with and greater depth to potentially display, but it just feels like there's nothing to him. In fact, he's probably the least interesting and most forgettable character in the entire film - not something you should be able to say about the protagonist.
You could argue that he's technically a co-lead with Kikuchi's Mako, but that's more down to her performance than anything in the script. She ultimately proved the far more compelling main character and I genuinely think that's down to Kikuchi's performance.
I don't want this to come across as me 'slamming' Hunnam's performance, but it does feel like he should've been cast as one of the supporting characters. He's really the only one of the cast who fails to add something to their character and make Becket stand out.
Again, he's not bad in the role and his performance certainly isn't a negative, but neither is it anything that improves the movie. There's a ceiling for films like this, with Pacific Rim effectively being a modern-day B-movie, and while the other members of the cast feel like they're trying to smash that ceiling, Hunnam just comes across as content to not even try.
Pacific Rim is a fun film, if a little insubstantial. It looks and sounds great, but ultimately fails because Charlie Hunnam's performance doesn't quite match the rest of the cast, leaving you pretty uninterested in how the lead character's story turns out.