Some Thoughts On ‘Pacific Rim’

"Pacific Rim": because the last 30 minutes of "Man of Steel" weren’t relentless enough. 

This has been the summer of more. Every movie released since “Iron Man 3” — even the great ones like "Iron Man 3" — have felt super-sized, often well past the point of diminishing returns. (Even though I found "White House Down" to be particularly dumb, it’s hard to imagine the movie wouldn’t have been better without its bloated, 137-minute running time.)

"Pacific Rim," though, is just beyond. This thing is a massive pastiche of every blockbuster released during the last 20 years, a thundering, lumbering, overwhelming and often deadening experience. It’s like that part in “Before Midnight” when Celine is talking about lab rats that died from orgasm overdose. “Pacific Rim” just can’t stop pressing the button.

Which isn’t to say the movie is a total loss: The 18-minute prologue (!) is fascinating and compelling, creating a detailed world that looks awfully fun. Charlie Day, as scientist who has a connection to the giant monsters in the film (the kaiju), is weird and perfect. He’s like the greatest character Damon Lindelof never wrote, and his subplot — which includes Ron Perlman’s black market king Hannibal Chau — is clearly the best part of the “Pacific Rim” universe. The score, by Ramin Djawadi, is one of the year’s highlights — a driving, throwback action score that just kills (righteous electric guitar work provided by Tom Morello, natch). There are enough great parts to make this into a great movie. So, what happens?

Overload. Everything in “Pacific Rim” is so big and out-sized, that the whole ceases to be entertaining. This is cinema masquerading as a 512-ounce soda from Paunch BurgerAfter a while, a giant robot fighting a giant monster is just another giant robot fighting a giant monster. There’s a reason video games aren’t a spectator sport.

"Pacific Rim" was directed by Guillermo Del Toro, and you’ll notice this is the first time I’ve written his name. That’s because so much of this film feels like the work of some hired gun (if Simon West had directed "Pacific Rim," it’s doubtful much would have been different). For starters, all the battle scenes take place at night — a stylistic decision that comes across like a cheat done to hide the film’s special effects. Then there are the characters not played by Day, Perlman or Burn Gorman (a frenemy of Day’s mad scientist), a group of barely functional cardboard cutouts who serve as plot devices and little else. (Rinko Kikuchi, as the only female with a major speaking role, is given particularly little to work with.) None of it connects as anything particularly special, a shame since Del Toro is a true visionary. Wouldn’t it have been fun if "Pacific Rim" had reinvented the summer blockbuster instead of merely copying the plot of "Independence Day" and style and visual effects of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon"? (Two films, it should be noted, superior in almost every way to "Pacific Rim.") Probably, but who cares when there’s a giant robot to wield a giant oil tanker like a giant baseball bat to fight another giant monster! (All brought to you by … rendering …)

"Go big or go extinct," reads the tagline for “Pacific Rim” / this summer. Let’s go with extinct then? Lo for the days of the less.

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