Pacific Rim – Mecha Anime Meets Sci-Fi

Song of the Day: ‘The Love Thieves’ by Depeche Mode


I had seen a preview of Pacific Rim sometime in the spring, a few months before its release, and promised myself right there and then that I would watch as soon as it was in the theatres. I didn’t make it there till almost the end of the summer, weeks after its release. And now, it’s months later that I am writing this review. Maybe all that is related to this movie and I are doomed to be late. At least I can say, I thoroughly enjoyed myself watching it! Pacific Rim is exactly what one expects of a sci-fi action movie. It is quite an entertaining extravaganza brimming with lush colours, state-of-the-art CGI effects and the promised robots on monsters hard core fights to the death. 

A bit of explanation of the basic premise is in order. There are some horrible creatures, Kaiju, who have popped up from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean via a portal to their native dimension. Well, these invaders are quite hostile, diabolically clever, evolving quickly in response to military attempts to defeat them (via these massive robots, Jaegers). After a long war of attrition (dramatised in pre-credit chunk that is almost a movie in itself), only a handful of Jaegers remain, concentrated in Hong Kong for a last stand against the enemy. Commanded by the wondrously named Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), the Jaeger pilots – who must work in pairs assisted by technology that links their brains – are a motley global crew. Our attention is particularly focused on Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), who seem to have especially traumatic experiences with Kaiju in their pasts.

As you may (not) know del Toro is an unabashed genre enthusiast and a feverish inventor of fantastical worlds enchanted by the visual and symbolic power of monsters and intoxicated by his own imagination. And perhaps, he has employed that imagination to more memorable effect in other movies, notably the wonderful Hellboy films and the shattering Spanish Civil War horror-allegories Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone. Some may find this one crude and over-scaled in comparison (I do to a degree) but even then with its carefree blend of silliness and solemnity, Pacific Rim is clearly the product of an ingenious and playful pop sensibility which has given us a two-hour, live-action mecha anime/Toho monster movie mash-up.

It’s also very interesting that del Toro named his monsters, Kaiju. It’s a Japanese word roughly translating as ‘strange monster,’ but more pertinently here, Kaiju is the name for a specific genre involving massive creatures who threaten human civilisation. (The Godzilla movies are Kaiju films). Del Toro is paying tribute to not only the Kaiju films but the mecha animes. As a matter of fact, true aficionados will notice del Toro paying direct homage to the legendary kaiju/mecha-anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion: Rinko Kikuchi’s portrayal of a Jaeger pilot struggling with a traumatic past nods pretty clearly to Evangelion’s character Rei Ayanami, with her anxious posture and bob haircut – she even has blue highlights!

Another series referenced would be the lovely Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (in my opinion the best mecha-anime series ever!). The bond between Raleigh Becket and his brother who dies leaving him to fight alone is a clear homage to the Kamina-Simon relationship in Gurren Lagann. So instead of drilling our way to the heavens, let’s fall deep into the breach. Considering how well it did at the box office, it would hardly be surprising if Atlantic Seaboard (or maybe Mediterranean Coastal Region) are released as the inevitable follow-ups and the return of the Kaiju through that pesky underwater portal.

The pleasures of Pacific Rim are somewhat nostalgic, and maybe also regressive. It is all one could imagine what modernised computer graphic and sound effects can create out of a comic book from the 70s. Del Toro does a wonderful job creating images composed of bright tones and block shapes, like old comic-book panels. And this future, for all the talk of ‘neural drift’ and dimensional wormholes, is a world of tubes and rivets and pistons. Jules Verne and H.G. Wells would appreciate it.

Though Pacific Rim may seem like a predictable outline once one understands the flow, the mind-blowing details put you on a roller-coaster ride of surprises that keep you entertained throughout the entire movie. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Till Next Post!


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