I went to see Pacific Rim the other night. I was happy to pay for the new super ticket and I was happy to see it in all of it’s Imax 3D glory. I went in feeling excited about the epic spectacle about to unfold. My initial reaction was pure gut driven glee. This movie is a visual treat. The kind of well crafted eye candy that has only really been possible in the modern effects driven world. I love the movie on first instinct but on the way home something started to nag at me. I am going to do my best to express why, but beware of mild spoilers.
I don’t want to sound like I didn’t like the movie, I did. No one can paint a digital picture like Guillermo del Toro. He is a modern master of visual story telling. Everything we once thought George Lucas was going to be. This movie is no exception to his usual picturesque brilliance. Every kid who imagined living in the world of Voltron or Godzilla, anyone who has ever watched a Ray Harryhausen movie and wondered what it would really be like to experience a monster in real life, will come away with an answer. The world is believable and the premise well crafted. All of the internal logic works and it looks gorgeous doing it.
So why do i have an irritating little feeling that it wasn’t what it could have been?
The more distance I get the more I think I know the answer, and I suspect it was intentional. I felt like all of the characters were one dimensional. They felt like genre archetypes. Movie Bob expressed it better then I could over at Escape to the Movies. In a nut shell, and apologies to Mr Chipman if I got it wrong, he suggests that the movie was deliberately trying to have every character feel like they walked out of the material that inspired them. Every person in the story was just what you thought they should be. It was an Anime come to life, but without the depth of character that you get in a long running series. This is fine in theory but you need some very good actors to pull it off.
The supporting cast is not the problem here. I adored the mad scientists (Charlie Day and Burn Gorman) and Ron Perlman proves once again why he is a walking cult classic. I was even fully invested in Idris Elba, who is doing his darnedest to become a top tier talent. He is the closest to accomplishing both an obvious homage to the source material and a full person in his own right. The rest of the cast fell short in my opinion.
The leading man and lady were almost place holders. They felt generic. Replaceable. Utterly bland and photo copied. I spent most of the movie waiting to feel anything about them. The closest I came was the memory scene with the junior version of Mako Mori but that is due to the talent of the little girl. I honestly believed they were terrorizing that child and I felt a strong urge to protect her. The minute we went back to “modern day” I lost any real connection to the character.
The movie held me with the eye candy and all to small moments of great stage presence but I am not sure it will be one I will want to re-watch again and again. In the end it was a movie I suspect I will describe it in the future as “Beautiful, breath taking and deep as a puddle”.