Director Guillermo Del Toro is known for his slightly eerie, personal monster films – films such as Hellboy, The Devils Backbone and the utterly entrancing Pan’s Labyrinth. It may come as a shock to some that Pacific Rim is such a loud, thumping blockbuster – but that’s not to say it’s not any good.
Set in the near future where aliens – known as Kaiju – come from a portal at the bottom of the ocean, humans have to quickly adapt to find a way of destroying the creatures or risk extinction, creating Jaegers, colossal-sized humanoids (which require piloting).
So the setup is there, the world is going to end soon and we need to rely on one person who will definitely be able to help and has the ability to save us – so far, nothing new. The genius of Pacific Rim and Del Toro as a filmmaker is the intimacy created within the special effects laden juggernaut, in one sequence, amidst the titanic clashes of Jaeger and Kaiju we concentrate solely on the reaction and fear of a child – classic Del Toro.
There will be inevitable comparisons between this and Michael Bay’s Transformers (and to a lesser extent Reel Steel) – big things hitting each other – although the main difference is that Del Toro’s offering is clearly made from a place of making a film the 12-year-old Del Toro would have loved. The heart of Pacific Rim is clearly more focussed on making a character piece with humongous action sequences, as opposed to Transformers which is focused on making huge sums of money.
Pacific Rim is noisy, brash and in places down right clunky but throughout its entire running time it’s absorbing, fun and engaging. True, it may not be Del Toro’s best film but it does show what can happen when a great director is placed in charge of tent pole films and gives it a cut above the standard Hollywood fare.