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November 2013

Pacific Rim blu-ray

cast: Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Ron Perlman, and Charlie Day

director: Guillermo del Toro

131 minutes (12) 2013
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Warner blu-ray region free
[released 11 November]

RATING: 8/10
review by Christopher Geary

Pacific Rim

If you can first wade through all the dystopian-future, world-building details of a pre-title, info-dump intro, Pacific Rim fulfils its trailer's worth of promises to provide us with the ultimate, so far, in CGI entertainment about mecha (massive robots) battling kaiju (giant monsters). Delightfully fantastical, the story's oversized 'Jaeger' war machines are essentially boxing droids with pilot-jockeys, acting in mind-linked pairs for shared control of towering suits of armour, pitted against invading alien creatures that emerge from an inter-dimensional breach (a murky portal that effectively serves as a watery equivalent of the New York sky wormhole gateway in Avengers Assemble) located on the Pacific Ocean floor.

Artificial telepathy called the 'drift' evokes quantum physics, while the heroes' science team of half-crazy xeno-biologist Newton (Charlie Day), and mathematician Gottlieb (Burn Gorman, Torchwood), figure out how to extract intel memories from pieces of kaiju brain, and predict exactly when attacks from the vaguely Lovecraftian and otherworldly underworld realm will escalate. However, that's about all you get for the weird sci-fi content of this movie, as it's primarily about the formidable leadership of Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba; thankfully, that Tom Cruise didn't get his role!) who is responsible to bringing war hero Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam), whose brother Yancy is killed in the opening sequence, out of retirement in Alaska to join a beleaguered force no longer trusted by their political masters to save the planet.

Raleigh finds his new fighting partner in heroine Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi, Assault Girls, The Brothers Bloom), and so the world's super-team are assembled under high pressure circumstances to combat a multi-monster strike. Meanwhile, the great Ron Perlman (star of del Toro's Hellboy) plays Tokyo black marketeer 'Hannibal Chau' - a nod to Blade Runner. He's important to the development of Newt's project, gathering actionable info via the drift link-up. The dialogue is often corny, and the sentimental attributes of the main characters are blatantly clichéd but, in each and every aspect of its artistry and sincere dramatic intentions, this offers astute pacifism - not passivity (as seen in the story's coastal wall-building exercises), and is engagingly respectful of many subgenre traditions.

Although we have often seen giant mecha in anime (Japanese animation), and also in US blockbuster movies before, like Michael Bay's Transformers series, Pacific Rim is an epic that goes much further than being just a simplistic, fandom-friendly, revision of Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla (1974). Director Guillermo del Toro shapes the meagre plot of monster movie menace and international efforts of gung-ho heroics into an adventure with unprecedented scale and spectacular visuals. From the defenders' Shatter-dome hanger decks in Hong Kong, the giant-robot launches of Jaeger tech embody a photo-real kind of tribute to Thunderbirds, just as the gigantic city-wrecking beasts dubbed kaiju pay homage to the life's work of career-animator Ray Harryhausen, the late king of stop-motion effects in genre cinema.

The movie disc has audio commentary tracks, and extras disc's comprehensive bonus package includes: the back-story of Jaegers and kaiju, featurettes about robot design, kaiju lore, character sketches, motion capture, the drift mind-meld, gothic style, alien sound effects, and visits to the production's mega-sets.



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