Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman, Rinko Kikuchi, Idris Elba
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief language.
Runtime: 2 hours, 11 minutes
Bottom line: Disappointment the size of a giant robot
Another week, another deafening, dumb computer-generated orgy of destruction.
Director Guillermo del Toro’s foray into tentpole releases was supposed to offer his unique twist on the summer blockbuster but is instead a loud, long and predictable clanker.
Nothing in “Pacific Rim” is plausible on any level.
In this movie’s world, giant alien beasts called kaiju emerge from an interstellar portal at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and destroy entire cities.
Why? Because that’s what this species of alien does, says the movie.
The countries of the world respond by setting aside all of their differences and spending every country’s entire gross domestic product to build a fleet of enormous robots called jaegers, German for “hunters.”
Jaegers must be operated by two people positioned inside the head of the robot, who enter a mind meld with the machine.
OK. Even if we accept two people must operate the jaegers — this does set the stage for character drama — why do they need to be inside the robot? Why can’t they be operated remotely from a safe distance?
This is just the beginning of the logical questions we could ask about “Pacific Rim,” but there would be no point.
The entire movie is an excuse to watch giant robots battle giant monsters. It’s a campy, PG concept suited to the sensibilities of pre-teen boys.
That would be fine, except the movie is rated PG-13 and takes itself far too seriously.
Del Toro treats this as a serious drama for most of the movie, and it’s all built around a jaeger pilot, Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam), who is cocky, unlikable and one-dimensional.
Eventually, Charlie Day and Ron Perlman will arrive to give the movie the sarcastic, campy tone it should have, but we have to wait far too long for the fun to begin.
The most interesting character is Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), a Japanese woman who is torn between becoming a jaeger pilot and remaining loyal to the jaeger commander, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba).
The two best scenes focus on Mako. In one, she and Raleigh spar hand-to-hand in a scene more entertaining than any of the rock-em-sock-em robot scenes.
Perhaps the movie’s best scene is a flashback showing Mako’s backstory, a traumatic incident that happened when she was just a girl. But even that sequence is ruined when it reaches its laughably cheesy climax.
There are legitimate reasons to root for this movie. Del Toro has done great work in the past, and the movie world would be a better place if he continues to be given sizable budgets. “Pacific Rim” is also an original story idea, and it would be nice to see Hollywood take more chances on unproven properties.
But ultimately, this might as well have been another comic book adaptation, because it offers nothing new.
The action sequences look no different from “Man of Steel” or any of the Avengers movies. Once again, we’re just digitally destroying whole cities.
I spoke to several fellow critics after the screening and voiced my criticisms. Repeatedly, they defended the movie by saying, “But it’s Guillermo del Toro.” I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie given so much grace merely because of the popularity of its director.
Put almost any other director’s name on the exact same movie, and critics would tear it apart. Instead, all the fanboys and a surprising number of critics are praising it.
Having filmmaking heroes is good. Believing they can do no wrong is bad.
All summer, I’ve felt like the old guy wearing plaid shorts and black socks screaming at the neighborhood kids. And here I am again.
This is a dumb movie that takes itself way too seriously and is not worthy of its talented director and cast. It would be fun if it were free, a late night viewing or a cheap matinee. But this isn’t worth the IMAX 3D prices the studio is asking us to pay.
Now get off my lawn.
Jeff Marker is head of the Communication, Media & Journalism Department at the University of North Georgia. His reviews appear weekly in Get Out and on gainesvilletimes.com/getout.