Film review: Pacific Rim knows no monster fight boundaries

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A new breed of bad guy, the kaiju, emerges from a breach in the ocean’s floor to destroy earth in the summer thriller Pacific Rim. A new breed of bad guy, the kaiju, emerges from a breach in the ocean’s floor to destroy earth in the summer thriller Pacific Rim.

Many years ago, when summer action blockbusters were a new-ish thing, my mother would say at their conclusion, “That movie was so loud.” It wasn’t really a complaint. It was an observation that, at 10 years-old, I found spurious. Maybe they were loud, maybe they weren’t. I was probably more interested in disagreeing with her.

If I could get my mother to attend Pacific Rim, she and I would find common ground on one thing, for sure: This movie is loud. Super loud. So loud that, at times, it hurts. And this is coming from someone who has listened to music, loudly, on headphones his entire life, and attended more concerts —and stood next to the amps—than he can count.

Maybe the volume is a plot element: The crushing sound effects of metal warriors crashing against scaly monsters exist to disguise the creakily turning wheels of the plot.

I don’t mean to suggest anyone should expect story innovation from a big summer action confection. Ha, no! That’s absurd. But one should expect, maybe, the sound isn’t so consistently blaring that it distracts from what happens on screen.

It also helps when what’s going on on-screen warrants undivided attention. Pacific Rim has some inspired scenes—mostly owed to Ray Harryhausen and kaiju movies—but it also thuds and clangs around.

There is good stuff, however. It’s hard to dislike Idris Elba. The erstwhile Stringer Bell from “The Wire” and future Nelson Mandela in the upcoming Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom uses his considerable gravitas and charisma to great effect as Stacker Pentecost, the leader of a group of jaegers—that is, giant robot-like things that are used to fight the monsters, which require two human pilots who share their consciousness to operate them, and look like something out of “Voltron.”

There’s also a genuinely scary sequence in which a young Japanese girl is chased down a recently trashed city street, screaming for her life. It’s not the sight of buildings being obliterated that’s so horrifying, but the look of shear terror on the child’s face. Her labored breathing and wide-eyed fear produce more emotion than anything the monsters do.

Finally, there are the monster themselves, which look as cool as you’d expect them to look in a movie directed by Guillermo del Toro. It’s too bad every fight happens at night, because the monsters are something to behold.

The story that fuels Pacific Rim is non-existent. It’s just an excuse to stage enormous digital fights. It also doesn’t make much sense. For example, monsters from another dimension or place or something invade Earth from a spot in the Pacific Ocean called “the breach.” There’s a plan to exploit the breach from Earth and drop a nuclear weapon into it, but (ugh, spoiler) no one from Earth can get into the breach without using kaiju DNA. They can, however, get back without using kaiju DNA.

Whatever. It doesn’t matter. What matters is monster fights, and Pacific Rim has plenty of that. Eh.

Pacific Rim PG-13, 131 minutes, Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

 

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Movie houses:

Carmike Cinema 6
973-4294

Regal Downtown Mall
Cinema 6
979-7669

Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX
244-3213

Vinegar Hill Theatre
977-4911

 

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