In recent years Hollywood has come to believe that in order to satisfy the paying public it must give them more bang for their buck. If this is the case it would appear that Warner Bros. reached their zenith with the sci-fi adventure Pacific Rim. Unfortunately however, though the mega-buster by director Guillermo del Toro, starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba and Rinko Kikuchi, may deliver explosions galore, there is very little of substance beneath the glitzy pyrotechnics to offer memorable or longterm satisfaction.
The future of the world is threatened by an alien force which, unexpectedly, comes not from outer-space but from the centre of the earth. In an attempt to stave off the seemingly inevitable domination of these creatures and the destruction of mankind as we know it, an army of giant robots manned by elite commander Stacker Pentecost (Elba) and his crack team including renegade officer Raleigh Becket (Hunnam) and rookie soldier Mako Mori (Kikuchi), head to the edge of the Pacific Ocean for the mother of all showdowns.
Before we go further let me say that on a purely superficial level Pacific Rim is OK. The archetypal example of popcorn entertainment it will provide instant satisfaction but little of lasting or substantial reward. The similarities between this film and the puffed up treat enjoyed by cinema-goers the world over are glaringly obvious. Enticingly wrapped in flashy packaging the film’s poster promises an exciting experience, similar to the sweet or tangy one offered by popcorn (depending on your taste). However, bite beneath the hard coating (literally in this case, considering the metal monsters who are the film’s main constituents) and all you find is a hollow centre filled with warm air but little else.
It’s not that the film doesn’t try. Giving the age old Godzilla franchise a fresh new twist (you’ll never view dinosaurs in the same light again) and mixing in a bit of trusty Transformers magic for good measure, del Toro’s epic is marvelous to look at. Its set pieces, in particular the destruction of Tokyo and the climatic battle at the earth’s core between the manmade monsters and their non-human adversaries, are undeniably impressive, in a brash, (extremely) noisy fashion. However its attempts to provide soul to the proceedings, through the interaction between the central cast of characters, lacks any real heart, resulting, it feels, in the scenes without monsters or action of any kind (of which there are quite a few) dragging on interminably.
Ultimately there is nothing wrong with Pacific Rim in itself. In fact, like the aforementioned popcorn, films like this, though not necessarily doing you any good, will neither do you any lasting harm if indulged in in moderation. However if – as an increasing number of the large Hollywood studios appear to think they should – shallow, big bang productions like Pacific Rim form the main basis of your cinematic viewing, it won’t be long before your filmic palette suffers from long term, irrevocable damage.