Chris' Review of Pacific Rim
I recently read an interesting column on "what makes a 'del Toro movie' a 'del Toro movie' (http://variety.com/2013/film/news/do-critics-have-the-wrong-idea-about-pacific-rim-director-guillermo-del-toro-1200562916/?_r=true). The writer of the piece seems to think that the critics have it wrong: del Toro's style isn't solely dependent on crafting Spanish-language, allegorical fantasies in the vein of Pan's Labyrinth or The Devil's Backbone; it's about crafting immersive alternate universes that require more creativity to design than one human mind can possibly possess. And THAT, is the "wow" factor of his films, the underlying thread that elevates a story about a girl in the Spanish Civil War into a masterpiece of childhood wonderment. The same thread allows Hellboy to escape his comic book entrapments and burst onto the screen into a fully fleshed-out universe of colorful characters. This thread exists in Pacific Rim, but it's hidden by the lack of immersion the film requires.
With PR, del Toro keeps his audience at a distance. The characters have few relatable attributes and every actor (apart from Charlie Day and Idris Elba, who were both fantastic. Ron Perlman was fine in his twenty seconds of screen time) delivers a cringeworthy, corny performance. The strange thing is, the cast should have been up to the challenge. Del Toro casts his films well, and PR is no exception. Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) has leading man chops, but Del Toro undermines his every possible chance at bringing to life an interesting character by burying him with soapy dialog and an unrelatable melodrama of a backstory. And Jesus Christ, Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) is the most goddamn annoying character ever to "grace" the silver screen. She's an archetypal Asian anime character, who frequently makes annoying sounds and is occasionally incomprehensible. Boy did del Toro miss the mark with her. She clogs the gears of an otherwise well-oiled film with her dumbass backstory and perpetual whining. Awful character, and awful casting.
The plot itself is about what you'd expect of del Toro. It's reasonably complex for a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters, but it also manages to stay out of the way and let the spectacle unfold. And boy is it worth it. The fight scenes--while repetitive, overlong and slightly exhausting--are visual marvels with a visceral impact. The score perfectly undertones the fights. They're works of art, plain and simple. They are del Toro at his best.