I’m not feeling the energy to write a full-on review of Guillermo del Toro‘s Pacific Rim (Warner Bros., 7.12) because I felt…well, a form of admiration mixed with a growing fatigue and disconnect when I saw it a couple of weeks ago, and I just can’t get it up today, man. No more than I could write an Architectural Digest review of a huge 75-story office building in midtown Manhattan. I admire the obvious fact that this Jaeger vs. Kaiju (i.e., super robots vs. supersized amphibious monsters) flick was made with heart and steel balls and technical mastery second to none. A lifelong believer in monster realms, GDT presided over every last detail of this gargantuan enterprise, delegating nothing and working his ass off 18/7 and delivering, in the end, a visitation that feels relatively fresh, imaginative and (as far as it goes) non-derivative. And it’s very briskly edited.
But my devotion has always been to GDT’s direction of his smaller, mid-sized films — Pan’s Labrynth, Mimic, The Devil’s Backbone, Chronos (and his hands-on producing of The Orphanage and Mama) — and Pacific Rim is about as un-small and un-midsized as it gets. And the totality of it, for me, began to constitute a kind of oppression.
I talked to a smart guy right after our Warner Bros. screening exposure, and we both agreed that Pacific Rim is a Class A endeavor for what it is except for the 131-minute length. Just as animated features need to be shorter, so does a film like this. 95, 100 minutes max. That very first shot of a roaring, howling Kaiju taking down the Golden Gate bridge in the fog (a clip featured in one of the first teasers) is breathtaking. I would even say legendary. But massive size in and of itself doesn’t hold intrigue. You get used to it. And once you’re accustomed to seeing 250-foot-tall monsters and robots thrashing and splashing and going nuts on each other, your mind…hell, your soul starts to look for relief. You look at your watch at the one-hour mark and say, “Oh, God…another 70-plus minutes to go?” And yet very little of Pacific Rim feels phoned in. You can always sense the fever and the fervor and the crackling brainpan activity. There’s nothing lazy or defaulty about Pacific Rim except GDT’s submission to the idea that “monsters are cool and super-thrilling and therefore the bigger and more destructive they are, the more exciting the film.” If nothing else Pacific Rim disproves this equation for all time to come.
You want the bottom line? I’ll give you the bottom line. I just didn’t believe that a Jaeger — God knows how many thousands of tons of cutting-edge technology fused into a single clanking-and-thundering fighting machine, and requiring the virtuoso skills of two pilots who think and feel as one….I just couldn’t believe that a Jaeger can function underwater. I just couldn’t buy it. Jaegers are not airtight submarines but moving, joint-dependent mechanisms with tens of thousands of circuits and hardware boards, and I’m sorry but sea water ruins almost everything. And I can’t buy the idea of a flying Kaiju — no way in hell can a 500-ton mega-beast flap its wings and do an Icarus. And I can’t buy the idea of dropping a Jeager from 25 miles above the earth’s surface and having it land more or less intact. And the Jaeger co-pilot played by Rinko Kikuchi becoming so lost in a childhood nightmare that her sense of terror causes a Jaeger to go out of control and nearly destroy a portion of the Jaeger camp? I hated that. And the idea of poor Idris Elba, stuck wearing the same awful double-breasted suit in every scene and saying the same kind of lines over and over and over and over? Later.
Elba aside, the cast is entirely fine. I didn’t even have a problem with Charlie Hunnam, whom other reviewers have been calling inanimate. Kudos to Charlie Day, Rob Kazinsky, Max Martini, Ron Perlman, etc. And there’s just no ignoring that Pacific Rim is a very well-made thing, so staggering in detail and scope and so expertly rendered up and down. A brilliant, brilliant effort. But it’s too overbearing and too long. I can’t imagine that women are are going to go anywhere near it. And yet nothing like this has ever been made or seen before, and so respect must be paid to co-screenwriter Travis Beacham, and to dp Guillermo Navarro. But, but, but, but….aahhh, I’ve said it.