Review by Gene
If you had told me at the beginning of this year that Iron Man 3 would not have been the best, at least in my opinion, robot/action movie of the summer I would have thought something went terribly wrong. I knew of Pacific Rim, but from the first poster I saw of it I figured it would probably be a cool CGI trip, but not much in terms of quality. Boy was I wrong. Pacific Rim is the pleasant surprise in a summer of movies that were a little lackluster. And my biggest regret is that I never caught it in theaters despite some incredible reviews from a lot of you whose opinions I’ve grown to respect.
Did you know that less than 10% of our oceans have been explored? That stat surprised me. It should come as no surprise then that in Pacific Rim, alien invaders do not come from outer-space, but from our own ocean floor through a “breach” which connected their world with ours. I thought this was a cool idea, like a built-in sneak attack. These alien monsters, known as “Kaiju”, come through the breach with increasing regularity and are increasingly larger time after time. In order to defend human-kind, every nation comes together to build the Jaeger program. Enormous robots, piloted by two people, to go toe-to-toe against these monsters. Even when I describe all that, it feels like this should be a straight to DVD, low-budget film that leaves little impression. Thankfully, Guillermo del Toro was at the helm on this one and man oh man did he deliver! Dear Michael Bay, this is how robot animation is done!
One of the coolest things in Pacific Rim is the neural handshake which the two pilots of the Jaegers have to partake in before they can control these massive robots. The minds of the two pilots must be in total unison, they must essentially be thinking the same thing. Many people probably think it’s the giant alien monsters and equally huge robots that make this a science-fiction movie, but this idea of melding two minds together so they can see the very thoughts and memories of one another is also an element of science-fiction. While this would be kinda cool (but also kinda dangerous), it is not a realistic possibility. Syncing the material elements in two brains is not equivalent to syncing the minds of two individuals. My brain is not the same as my mind. The Bible teaches us that we have two natures: a natural or materialistic (fleshly) nature, and an immaterial or spiritual nature. Galatians 5:19-25 tells us a bit about the works of the flesh and the fruits of the spirit. It is the materialistic worldview that teaches that your mind is the same as your brain; that if you can tap into the brain (as they do in Pacific Rim) then you are also tapping into the mind. This is not the case. You may be able to observe electrical signals firing in my brain, but you can never know what thoughts, images or words those signals are working together to produce in my mind unless I tell you. Cool concept, but ultimately a fiction of science that I’m sure many people believe could actually happen.
Pacific Rim follows Raleigh Becket (Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam) from Jaeger pilot, to construction worker, and back to Jaeger pilot just in time to confront the biggest and baddest Kaiju on record. For years the Jaegers were doing an excellent job keeping the Kaiju away from major cities, until suddenly the powers that be decided a huge steel reinforced concrete wall is a better idea. The movie didn’t do a very good job explaining the reason for this, but it provided some urgency in the story and allowed for our hero to rise to the occasion. Stacker Pentecost, played perfectly by Idris Elba, says to Raleigh, “The world is coming to an end. So where would you rather die? Here, or in a Jaeger!”. Elba is slowly becoming an A-list actor and every scene he is in is elevated. He has some of the best lines, not to mention a pretty sweet rally speech inspiring the title of this review, and he really raises the performances of the rest of the cast. Hunnam is satisfactory as our lead, but there are definitely times you can tell he’s a TV actor. I think the more opportunities he’s given on the big-screen the better he’ll get. A couple other roles: Rinko Kikuchi playing Mako Mori and Max Martini playing Herc Hansen, also came off a little out-of-place. With Martini it was like he was trying too hard or perhaps over-acting some of his lines, and with Kikuchi, like she couldn’t find the right facial expression to match the mood of the moment or what she was saying. Neither of them left a real sour feeling with me, but I did notice those things.
Any faults one might find with the acting however are far outweighed by both the strength of the story, as well as the incredibly impressive CGI. I’m telling you, everything looked real! The monsters looked like they had the appropriate mass and texture, the robots were battle-worn and pieced together perfectly, and both interacted with the surrounding environment in a believable way. These are some of the best effects I have ever seen. The battles weren’t simple monster v. robot battle royal’s either. With the dual human pilots, del Toro didn’t waste the opportunity to show the real toll that operating these Jaegers had on them. There are some serious consequences to mind-melding, or “drifting”, with someone else while also using every ounce of your strength fighting these Kaiju. It took extreme focus and intensity, which was beautifully shown throughout all the fight scenes.
There are a few other elements of this film we can touch on from a Christian perspective. This Jaeger pilot program is an international effort so you assume there are numerous duos from countries all over the planet. We are really only shown 2-3 however with any detail and depth. One such duo is a father-son pairing who pilot the newest and most advance Jaeger called “Striker”. The son, Chuck Hansen (played by Robert Kazinsky), is a bit of a loose cannon. He is arrogant, self-centered and egotistical. For the most part his father is passive in correcting his sons behavior. He comes across as somewhat reckless and immature. These are traits often found in youth and it reminded me of Paul’s exhortation to his young disciple Timothy. Paul says, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, conduct, love, spirit, faith and in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). And regarding the role of an elder, he should not be “a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.” (1 Tim. 3:6). Obviously a person’s youth alone can make them more susceptible to things like conceit, worldliness and boasting, particularly if they are not accustomed to positions of honor or praise. I think that is what we see playing out in Chuck Hansen. I know a lot of our reading audience are youngsters. “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, ‘I have no delight in them’” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).
The final scene of Pacific Rim doesn’t disappoint. It really is a beautiful scene, not just because they’re fighting these monsters now on the ocean floor with the breach in sight and underwater volcanoes surrounding them, but because in the same act we have a self-sacrificial display of love from one character, and a wonderfully redemptive moment for another. To borrow a phrase from the Dark Knight, it’s a great reminder that it’s what we do that defines us. If you didn’t catch this in theaters then you are likely kicking yourself, like me.
My Rating: 4.5/5
This movie has just about everything you could want in a sci-fi action flick. As long as you don’t mind the killing of alien beings you won’t find much offensive about this. There are some brutally violent moments which you will probably want to keep your young children from seeing, as well as a bit of language but nothing that stands out a great deal in my mind, unless you stick around after the credits. Don’t, not worth it. So far this year I have this as my favorite action movie. Definitely better than Iron Man 3 and slightly better or at least as good as Man of Steel, in my opinion. If there is a knock on it, it’s probably some of the acting from the supporting cast.
Stacker Pentecost: “One, don’t you ever touch me again. Two, don’t you ever touch me again.”
Yancy Becket: “This is worth fighting for. We don’t have to just obey him.” Mako: “It’s not obedience, Mr. Beckett; it’s respect.”
Raleigh: “There are things you can’t fight – acts of God. You see a hurricane coming, you get out of the way. But when you’re in a Jaeger, you can finally fight the hurricane. You can win.”
Dr. Geiszler: “Fortune favors the brave, dude.”