This has been a strange summer at the movies for me. On the one hand, it’s been a pretty crazy one—in the last few months we’ve seen dozens of high profile films, and we still have plenty more to go before the summer is all done. But even though we’ve seen a lot of films, I find it odd that I’ve loved pretty much none of them. This is the End aside (which I would argue is one of the few big successes of the summer thus far), most of the high profile blockbusters have run the gamut from “lackluster” to “merely good” for me. Nothing particularly great in my mind, but nothing outright horrible either. Even then though, I was looking for a film in the last few months that would really remind me why I loved this season—a lot of the big blockbusters had shown this in bits and pieces, but none of them really came together as a whole. But considering the insane buzz behind Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim, I was hoping that this movie would finally change that, and give me an action blockbuster that I truly loved. But I was sad to discover that Pacific Rim was just like every other action movie blockbuster this year—stunning in many aspects, but ultimately lacking in some of the most important ones. Here are six of those issues that ultimately stopped Pacific Rim from being a true classic.
DISCLAIMER: The first few points won’t talk spoilers about the film at all, but the final one will delve in heavily into them. But don’t worry, I’ll be sure to leave a spoiler warning before it starts.
The Script Is Literally One Giant Cliche
Seriously guys, this one just leaves me baffled with the hypocrisy of it all. Avatar is constantly trashed for being a rip-off of a ton of different sci-fi properties, but Pacific Rim does pretty much the same exact thing and gets massive praise for it? There is not one vaguely original thing in this entire script, from character archetypes to plot points. Yes Pacific Rim has some story elements we’ve never seen in a $200 million dollar blockbuster before, but watch pretty much any anime about giant monsters or huge robots and the similarities will become vastly apparent. I have no problem with Pacific Rim taking things from other sci-fi properties—but when even the simple things like character motivations are ripped off from far superior films, THAT’S when I start to have a problem.
It Contains Some Pretty Questionable Dialogue
Maybe the cliche ridden script would have been less noticeable if the dialogue was sharper and more clever, but sadly that isn’t the case with Pacific Rim. One of the first spoken words of Pacific Rim is a cringe worthy Star Wars reference—honestly, that should tell you everything you need to know about Pacific Rim for better and for worse. Thankfully though, that was one of the few moments I cringed—the rest of the time, the dialogue was just kind of there. It got the job done I guess, but about half way through I stopped giving a shit about what the characters were actually saying. That is until Idris Elba’s big, Independence Day esque speech which, seriously, is pretty horrible. Yeah it’s fun to throw around the killer “Tonight we cancel the apocalypse!” line, but everything before that was so lame and generic that even Elba was having trouble getting through it. At least I think he was—it was kind of hard to tell what Elba was doing in this movie. Which brings me to my next point…
A Weak Ensemble
To be fair, I saw this one coming a mile away—the cast of this film never really interested me, aside from Charlie Day and Idris Elba. Well I appreciate Del Toro’s decision to not cast the film with huge A-list stars, I do kind of wish we got a more capable lead than the pretty one note Charlie Hunnam—I was fine with his narration at the beginning and wasn’t getting the negative buzz off his performance. That is, until he kept talking like that through the entire film. Hunnam shows no range in Pacific Rim and, combined with the lackluster character arc for his character, leaved little to no impact as the lead. Hell, I can’t even remember his damn name—Luke Skywalker this ain’t. And sadly, the other actors don’t fare much better—Rinko Kikuchi is capable of being really fun in stuff like The Brothers Bloom, but her role is still pretty weak here in Pacific Rim. And like I said, I’m mixed about Idris Elba—stuff like the aforementioned speech may show that he knows exactly what kind of movie he’s in and him going all out with it, or it may point to him just being bored with playing the stereotypical military figure. Believe it or not, it alternates on a scene by scene basis. The only person in the film who was really given grade-A material was Ron Perlman…but he was in the film for maybe 10 minutes at max. The other bright stars in the main cast are Charlie Day and Burn Gorman as the two feuding scientists…but even they don’t get the chance to shine as much as they should due to the film’s…
Surprising Lack of Humor
Once again, this surprised me. When you have an awesome actor like Charlie Day in your cast playing the comic relief, it really shouldn’t be hard to get some laughs. And though I chuckled at some of Day’s shenanigans, I was literally the only one in my theater—seriously, I was in a packed theater and there wasn’t a single laugh throughout the entire film. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t blame Day—he did the best he could with a role that basically translated to him running around and fast talking in a way that Charlie Day is accustom to doing. For me at least, a film like Pacific Rim needs a Star Trek or Iron Man vibe throughout it—hell, even a Han Solo esque character in Pacific Rim could have made a huge difference in tone and energy. I would have even dug the tone of del Toro’s last film, Hellboy II—though it’s a dark fantasy action film, it will still take time to make you laugh. There’s no “Hellboy gets drunk” scene in Pacific Rim, which is a real shame indeed. And though Day and, to a lesser extent, Burn Gorman try their best, they can’t overcome a script that gives them no funny material to really work with.
The Film Climaxes In The Middle, And Doesn’t Really Recover
My final point of this article is definitely the most spoiler ridden, so if you haven’t seen Pacific Rim yet, LEAVE NOW. Towards the mid point of the film, Pacific Rim goes through what will easily be its most noteworthy sequence—a huge fight sequence set in Hong Kong in which Gypsy Danger has to engage in a duel with two different kaijus. To put it bluntly, this entire 20 minute segment is jaw dropping—it shows everything you could possibly want from this premise, and contains pretty much every money shot you’ve seen from the film thus far. It’s truly an amazing action sequence, one of the best I’ve seen in years. And though this issue isn’t as big as the other four that proceeded it, I still feel like it’s worth mentioning anyways—after this blood pumping sequence concluding, I was surprised to find out that there was still like half an hour left in the film. I was excited to see what Del Toro had in store for the finale after such an epic sequence.
But to my disappointment, the film kind of fizzles after that. The final sequence takes place under the ocean, in the titular Pacific Rim. And though it makes sense plot wise, I couldn’t help but feel like the film ended on a low note. But you know, that actually exposes another interesting fact about this film that no one seems to mention—this film basically has one huge fight sequence in the middle, and that’s it. And though I wouldn’t want to see anything happen to this amazing sequence, I do wish the pacing was a little bit better—aside from the so-so opening kaiju fight and the aforementioned ending, there’s no other action scenes in the 2 hour plus Pacific Rim (unless you count the strange martial arts sequence…which no, I don’t). Usually it wouldn’t be a huge problem to save all of the heavy action towards the end, but Pacific Rim blew its wad IN THE MIDDLE. It’s like if the New York invasion at the end of The Avengers took place halfway through the film—yeah it still would have been awesome, but then what would the rest of the film be about? You already saw the best part, so why even stick around?
And I hate to say it, but I was underwhelmed by Pacific Rim’s final sequence. One of the things that the film nails so well is the scale of these beasts, and delivering truly epic fight scenes using this scale. But by placing the two remaining Jaegars under the water in which there seems to be no real life and no objects to compare them to in scale, the action just isn’t as dynamic. I hate to compare it to another giant robot film since this one is VASTLY superior, but it reminds me about how baffled I was to see Michael Bay choose THE FREAKING DESERT for the end of Transformers 2. The fun of these creatures is to see them smash things around them and, when there’s nothing around them to smash, I just think the action is less fun and spectacular. Plus there’s no real threat to anything—there’s no city they have to defend, or people they have to save. The only threat at the end of the film is to that of the main characters and, since I didn’t really care about any of them at that point, I had nothing at all to latch unto in that final sequence. Not a horrible way to end the film, but I do wish there was something a little more grand to end such an epic film with.
Boy, that one lasted longer than I thought. Anyways, I think I’ve said my peace on this film—like so many other films this summer, I found a lot to love about Pacific Rim. But like Man of Steel, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Iron Man 3 before it, weaknesses in the script ultimately kept me from loving Pacific Rim. It’s certainly fun and I would still recommend catching it in theaters, but just don’t go in with your expectations through the roof. Like me, you’re sure to be a bit disappointed.
Man, I hope Elysium is as amazing as it looks. If not, I’m really going to start to losing faith in the summer blockbuster. Here’s to hoping. Anyways, proceed to call me an idiot in the comments below. Believe it or not, you’re actually doing this website a service. Keep up the good work, reader!