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  Pacific Rim Big Hitters
Year: 2013
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Diego Klattenhoff, Burn Gorman, Max Martini, Robert Kazinsky, Clifton Collins Jr, Ron Perlman, Brad William Henke, Larry Joe Campbell, Mana Ashida, Santiago Segura, Joe Pingue, Milton Barnes
Genre: Action, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: When the first giant monster arrived it was more of a novelty than anything else, nobody had seen one before and though it caused some damage to San Francisco it was regarded as one of those never to be repeated events, with the U.S. military seeing to it that the creature was stopped in its tracks. But then another one arrived, and another, and more, all emerging from the Pacific Ocean to wreak mayhem on the world, leaving mankind to fight back with huge robots powered by two people linked through their thoughts, which was successful for a while. But now, a few years later, Earth's population are growing desperate for a solution...

When director Guillermo del Toro spent a lot of time trying to get The Hobbit made and failed, then spent a lot of time trying to get his adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness made, and failed, his fans wondered if he had struck a run of bad luck and if he would ever manage to return to the director's chair on his own terms, or whether it would be producer's credits from now on. Then this little item was announced, still linked to a love of fictional monsters del Toro had sustained since childhood, and his audience's interest was piqued, but to say it had a mixed reception on its eventual release would be an understatement.

Essentially the problem was, if you hadn't seen a bunch of Japanese kaiju movies at the right age, then you just were not going to "get" what the director was aiming for with Pacific Rim. It wasn't enough to have seen the Hollywood Godzilla remake of 1998, you had to be well-versed in the genre to appreciate the would-be blockbuster, and all those years of people taking the Mickey out of Gojira and Gamera in the West, particularly in North America, was not going to endear this to those who were now being asked to take this very seriously indeed. However, over on the other side of the world Pacific Rim went down a storm in places like China and (of course) Japan, since de Toro proved he had a keen understanding of their appeal.

Therefore for all the complaints about it making no sense to build massive robot suits to battle enormous beasts, you had to accept it made no sense in the real world, but in the world of these movies it was part and parcel of the storytelling, and anyway there were no such things as killer monsters hundreds of feet high in actuality, so you could do whatever you liked to combat them when it was your plot and you were paying homage to a venerable tradition. What might have been valid as a criticism was that the social commentary was lacking, so aside from a wide-ranging endorsement of getting the whole planet working together in a display of co-operation and teamwork, this was mostly about having fun with the action and humour - few noticed this was as much a Ray Harryhausen tribute as it was to the Japanese.

Then again, del Toro was attending to another tradition in Japanese science fiction which was anime, and the team assembled to battle the kaiju by piloting the suits was identifiably in that format with the crusty leader (Idris Elba) overseeing the reckless hero (Charlie Hunnam), the token woman as love interest (Rinko Kikuchi), and assorted gruff types as well as the all-important comic relief, here taken by two actors, Charlie Day and Burn Gorman, who refreshingly were pretty funny. Adding the director's priceless colleague Ron Perlman as a tough guy black market dealer in monster artefacts (his big entrance here is particularly amusing) and you had some admittedly shallow characters thrown into sharper relief by the vastly detailed scale of what they were pitted aganst. There are splashy setpieces galore, literally at times because so much water is involved, so if nothing else the budget very visibly went into sustaining visuals which were consistently engrossing simply because del Toro was so blatantly having the time of his life making his childhood dreams come true. Music by Ramin Djawadi.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Guillermo del Toro  (1964 - )

Stylish Mexican horror director who moves between personal projects and Hollywood blockbusters. After a couple of short films, he earned international attention with unusual vampire chiller Cronos. Mimic was an artistically disappointing follow up, but he enjoyed success with vampire action sequel Blade II, spooky ghost story The Devil's Backbone, and another horror comic adaptation, Hellboy. Spanish Civil War fantasy Pan's Labyrinth was widely seen as a triumph and won three Oscars. After a long spell in production hell since Hellboy II, he returned with giant monster mash Pacific Rim and gothic chiller Crimson Peak. The Shape of Water, an unconventional horror romance, garnered him Oscars.

 
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