***1/2 (out of four)
Forget “Avatar,” a movie with supposedly mind-blowing visuals that looked cool for a while but, because James Cameron offered nothing else, I eventually thought, “This is pretty. And pretty bad.”
Want to see a wonder that makes your eyes pop and jaw drop? Director/co-writer Guillermo del Toro’s “Pacific Rim” is that rare beast, a movie that demands you get out of the house and see it on the biggest screen possible. Sure, del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”) could have titled his Japanese-inspired action blowout “Monsters vs. Robots”—thanks for not doing that, Guillermo—but the beautiful grotesqueness of movie magic trumps any sense of commercially driven familiarity. I love the city-destroying beings of “Pacific Rim,” which makes “Real Steel” look like a scale model.
In 2020, Earth is in Year 7 of its war with the “Kaijus,” or giant beasts that come from another dimension and enter through a portal in the ocean. (Which means that sometime this year … uh oh.) Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam of “Sons of Anarchy”) and his brother are star pilots of jaegers, the enormous metallic hunters that world leaders determined, after failed efforts with tanks and missiles, were the smartest weapon against creatures that, in a lesser film, would be dubbed Sharknoceros and Lobstersaurus.
A battle goes south, and it’s not until five years later that the program’s leader (Idris Elba) lures Raleigh back to a program in danger of cancellation. The monsters have evolved, and the jaegers and their pilots die faster than engineers can build them.
It’s not often that movies deliver the wow factor of a “Jurassic Park,” but in its peak moments of ginormous epicness, “Pacific Rim” does it. The words “hell yeah” actually went through my head.
The dialogue gets clunky, and as the plot sets up it’s easy to mutter, “Get to the monsters.” But the pleasures aren’t all in the massive crunch of lizard-y aliens and mega-Megatrons. Charlie Day is hilarious as an excitable research expert who’s a borderline Kaiju groupie, and Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi (as an employee who really wants to be a pilot) generate some nice moments involving old memories and new bonds.
In “Pacific Rim,” jaegers are only as good as their pilots, and a summer movie season isn’t much without one example of humongous, killer entertainment. Thrilled that it’s here.
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