Some films achieve a kind of breathless beauty which leaves you gasping for air. As I’ve detailed elsewhere, the exquisite Pan’s Labyrinth was one of those for me. Seeing that a few years ago did all sorts of things to me; each re-viewing still does. If the film’s Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro never gets close to that level again he shouldn’t be disappointed. It’s a high-water mark few will reach.
His latest film is not such a film. Pacific Rim is many things, but transcendent beauty it isn’t. It’s a huge blockbuster, a special-effects movie about enormous alien-monster thingies and great big robots hitting the living daylights out of each other. At one point a ship is used. As a hand-held weapon.
What Pacific Rim is, though, is a great big joyous grin of a film. My wife and I haven’t smiled all the way through a movie in quite the same for years. I simply cannot recall the last time I saw a film this much fun.
Right now some of you are thinking … well, maybe you’ve been subjected to a Transformers movie. Forget that. Those are cynical imagination-killing cash cows made with no thought, soul or courage, and a side-serving of leering misogyny. They are boring in the extreme. Pacific Rim is not perfect – the two scientist characters, part comic relief, part key to how to beat the aliens – don’t work well enough to be given as much screen-time as they have. The script has some thick cheese at times – but at others it does what it’s there to do, and when you’ve got a speech which culminates with Idris Elba shouting ‘we are cancelling the apocalypse!‘ then the script has done its job. Idris Elba, by the way – there’s an actor with presence and charisma to light up a coastline. Of course if you’ve seen TV’s The Wire or Luther you already knew that, but if this film puts him on the global stage, then that’s another thing to be thankful for.
What differentiates this film from the interminable and soulless Transformer franchise is that Pacific Rim was made with love. Love for the original concepts and comic traditions the film comes from; love for the creatures and robots themselves, so much so that they actually feel and sound as large as buildings; love enough to know when to almost wink at the camera, and enough to know when to let two really big things hit each other hard in the middle of the ocean. Love enough to shoot the action sequences (Zac Snyder, please learn this for the next Superman/Man Of Steel movie) so that you actually know what’s going on and who’s where. Love enough to keep you glued in your seat for the first part of the visually astonishing end credits and reward you with a cheeky, corny, laugh-out gag.
Pacific Rim, when all is said and done, left me remembering what it was like to be 12 years old and be blown away by something I couldn’t even imagine until I saw it on the screen, and to be so excited about it I wanted to tell everyone about it for days. If cinema doesn’t sometimes do that, it’s failing.
I rated this film 9/10 on imdb.com and 4.5/5 on rottentomatoes.com