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Review: Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘Pacific Rim’

Review: Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘Pacific Rim’

Lines are being drawn in the sand as we speak and people are taking side—and if the chatter is to be believed, the entire fate of the movie industry rest in the hands of one very big, wet, hulking mass of a high-concept movie. It’s distracting, but one can’t really discuss Guillermo del Toro’s upcoming science-fiction action adventure “Pacific Rim” without addressing some of the baggage it’s arriving in theaters with this weekend, at least for a certain (probably very small) sect of the movie going public. If “Pacific Rim” fails, if this “original” movie cannot win at the box-office and if it (gasp) loses to the nefarious, made-from-pure-evil “Grown Ups 2” from comedy Satan himself Adam Sandler, the cinematic universe will implode and will come to an end. The LucasBerg prophecies shall come to pass, theaters will topple to the ground and 3D will melt off the screens with a bitter hiss. James Cameron will plummet past you in flames screaming as he falls to his fiery doom. Ladies and gentleman, if you do not see “Pacific Rim” this weekend, you are not doing your civic duty as a movie-loving cinephile and you are therefore siding with the forces of reboots, remakes, reups, sideways sequels and other tools of the Hollywood Devil.

Melodrama aside (much of which is rather fitting), some of this might be true if “Pacific Rim” were actually original and not just a large-scale pastiche of different pop culture references including Japanese manga/anime (“Voltron,” “Robotetch,” etc.), video games (“Half Life”) and “Godzilla“-esque monster movies where creatures rise from the deep and try and destroy Tokyo (or in this case, the Pacific rim of Earth, which you bet, includes Japan). Not that there’s anything wrong with pastiches of any kind, but it’s a little glib to cling to the idea ‘Rim’ is a wholly singular work. Some of this might matter if original ideas were exclusive to good movies. Point being, Guillermo del Toro’s “Pacific Rim” is being touted, by some, as the make or break film to champion, lest original, true, honest and authentic cinema be burned to the ground for all time. Much of this partisan lobbying is conveniently blind to the fact that “Pacific Rim” is rather generic, familiar and cliche-ridden; ambitious ideas and spectacular designs wrapped up in a banal and tediously told story that’s as clamorous, loud and disorienting as any Michael Bay movie (though thankfully, not as vulgar).

Set in the near future of approximately 2023, “Pacific Rim” could stand to come with a field manual and a glossary. There’s kaijus (monsters), jaegers (big ass robots), a neuro-bridge called “the drift” and plenty of sci-fi mumbo jumbo that will confuse anyone not fluent in nerd-ese. As it is, the movie features a 20-minute opening to explain how monstrous Godzilla-like creatures from the deep rose out of the sea and threatened the very existence of mankind by wiping out some of Earth’s most populated cities. The global response: fight fire with fire and build massive robots to fist fight with monsters. (Because obviously, how else would you stop monsters other than creating supersized robots to street fight with them on public streets? Seems rational…) Concurrently, the audience is told the backstory of Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam), a former Jaeger pilot now adrift after losing his brother (Diego Klattenhoff, Mike from “Homeland”) in a battle that saw their robot mostly destroyed.

Flashing forward six years, global bureaucrats are sick of funding Jaegers. This billion-dollar effort is failing and allied governments have decided to erect gigantic walls as counter measures instead. But Jaeger General Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) is not really having it, taking his remaining robots and dwindling resources and creating a resistance to fight back against these apocalyptic monsters. Of course, in uncertain times, with your back against the ropes, sometimes you have to call on unlikely heroes. Cue the “washed up” Hunnam, the scientist Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), who means much more to the General than anyone knows, and a thought-to-be obsolete model of Jaeger (they’ll be kicking it old school eventually, natch).

Initially, del Toro’s movie doesn’t seem interested in anything other than getting monsters to fight robots, eschewing how those sea monsters came to earth—other than a brief mention in the prologue that they’re travelling through an interstellar portal. But “Pacific Rim” quickly reveals that it’s actually interested in telling the story of the key humans tasked with fighting back these beasts from the deep. Rooted in character, beating human hearts and interpersonal dynamics, this would seem to be wise idea in a movie about monsters vs. robots, if it weren’t for the fact that every character in the film has the emotional maturity of a teenager.

Look, the audience understands that it’s the end of the world and stakes are high, but the film’s angsty melodrama is a serious deal breaker. Most of the character conflicts within feel like high school drama, every situation dialed up to a panicky 11 and characters are constantly shouting in a small variation of distressed histrionics. And none of the characters (or caricatures rather) are particularly unique, involving or especially interesting (and Hunnam as the lead is flat). The two Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum scientists (Charlie Day and Burn Gorman) are obnoxiously shrill anti-comic relief and Day’s bleating is so piercingly odious you’re praying he’s going to get crushed like a bug. Every electioneering speech that comes out of Idris Elba’s mouth is seemingly taken from the hammy “Henry V“/”Braveheart” monologue auto-generator and Ron Perlman is once again playing the requisite eccentric Guillermo del Toro Ron Perlman character (Clifton Collins Jr. and Max Martini also co-star).

“Pacific Rim” also has cliches to spare. Many of them seemingly swiped rather obviously from “Top Gun.” There’s Charlie Hunnam’s maverick character—he’s too unpredictable, doesn’t follow orders and “improvises”—and all the other jarhead teams are worried his incalculable nature will spell their doom. One teammate (Robert Kazinsky) is completely frosty to Raleigh like an ice man, mocking and goading him on, but of course by the end of the picture his respect has been earned and he’ll be his Jaeger wingman any time. Of course the one man who believes in him is his chief pilot instructor Viper…errr, his former General Pentecost.

Guillermo del Toro is a masterclass world builder; his creature and mecha designs are impressive, even stunning to look at and a lot of “Pacific Rim” looks sensational (when you can actually see it). But it’s certainly not enough to make for a compelling movie. Milieu and visuals being del Toro’s forte, the director strangely loses ground with fight sequences; the one area he should always be excelling in. The murky 3D doesn’t do any favors to sequences set at night, in the rain, or under the dark ocean, but many of the battle scenes are surprisingly incoherent and muddled. Every fight scene contains an 11th hour rally back from defeat that feels tired and predictable by the final fight. (Oh, look they robots have an ace up their sleeve! Wait, why weren’t they using them the whole time?). The collateral damage levels are high too, but strangely enough, unlike “Man Of Steel,” constituents of the film don’t seem to care because its “fun” factor is much higher.

A movie seemingly specifically created to deliver a wet dream for the Comic-Con crowd, “Pacific Rim” is underwhelming and actually fairly unimaginative in its storytelling considering the amazing universe it creates. It remains to be seen if regular civilians are going to cotton to the movie like online audiences already have (and it seems very doubtful). “Pacific Rim” will be a total fun dumb blast if all you crave is the promise of a big messy brawl of gigantic robots and monsters from the murk with a scrappy crew of humans to save the world too. “Pacific Rim” rewards you with all that, but the implication of something more is deeply stifled. If your basic movie needs demand a little bit more—logical premises; interesting, marginally original characters; dialogue that doesn’t reek of throaty, aspirational monologue after monologue—“Pacific Rim” will leave you feeling hollow and wanting. [C-]

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This movie was absolutely fucking amazing.


If people can't be arsed to memorize THREE goddamned neologisms for 132 minutes they shouldn't go see movies ever again and do humanity a favor and remove themselves from the gene pool by bullet-to-the-brain.


saw this in 3d at a cinema with 4k projectors, i was very happy with the film.
great action scenes, the acting from some of the cast was a bit lacking but that can be forgiven because giant fricking robots.


In 2D, the action scenes were very easy to follow. Maybe the 3D is an issue, but otherwise, they're certainly not incoherent.


Man, if I was 10 years old this movie would have made me cream my jeans. But as a 25 year old adult I just couldn't handle some of the plot holes and lack of logic in the script. The fight scenes were awesome and really got my testosterone going. The sound was AMAZING. But all the character-driven stuff just fell flat. Kudos to GDT for taking a chance on Charlie Hunamm as the lead but I don't think he's cut out for it. If Jaeger pilots are rockstars then why is Raleigh slumming it out building a wall? Dude should be happily retired sipping top shelf margs on an island somewhere with all the coin he made his first go as a pilot.


Listen, I love terribly over the top and awesome action movies. I thought 6 Fast 6 Furious was awesome, and delivered everything I wanted. This was different. The action was dull, boring and repetitive was not spectacular like you would want, nay, need in a movie like this. The acting, and writing, were intentionally cringe inducing, which I can deal with on a limited basis if the film also delivers a large amount of fun. This did not.

I've never wanted to get up and leave a movie while I was watching it before. I nearly did during this movie. Twice.

I'll be honest, this is the worst movie I've ever paid to see. I couldn't have been more disappointed in it.

Weird Mike

Everyone wants something to "wow" them, but no one can step up to the plate like the people being criticized can because they're making no effort to go beyond the keyboard.


Guillermo del Toro (finally one director) Decided to bring my childhood memories to the screen in a visual spectacular way. It has scenes that will remind a lot of people mecha anime series like Mazinger Z, Gaiking, Gundam and most recently Evangelion. Obviously this reviewer looks like he doesn't has a clue of where this movie came from. It is a great summer popcorn movie. I loved it and base on the overall reviews people and overall critics enjoyed it. Is understandable for me some people will not like this stuff but instead of wasting their time trolling, they can go to the theater and pick something else. There a lot of movies out there.
Because I loved this concept when I was a kid and I was waiting like 30 years to see something live action, I went watch it first day and I was no dissapointed, The Special Effects are top notch, the story is typical but entertain and is a lot of fun. Guillermo del Toro delivered! But this movie is not to win the Oscar for best picture, maybe Sound and Special Effects, still a great summer adventure.


only reason Pacific Rim is flopping in America is because its not your typical blockbuster where America or an american is saving the world in America. Large parts of the movie is based in Hong Kong, with up to 5 actors from the film English and another Japanese. The american actors are a smaller minority in the film. American audiences cannot stand this, they want there Blockbusters to be patriotic to Uncle Sam like the Transformers movies


I don't understand this review; in content and in its premise. I've been all over the other blogs and social media and, while the buzz for PR was challenging, there was hardly a mention of THIS film being The One that would make or break big-budget original sci-fi content. The ever-early-starting summer season already had OBLIVION and AFTER EARTH. Are you saying that those earlier original properties weren't talked about as much as this one, in changing the studio game?
This is essentially a LEGENDARY film – at least 75% of the production – and they've moved over to NBCU to expand their media reach. So, with their track record, Tull and co. took, I'm sure a calculated risk in funding Del Toro's film.

FYI, I've seen the film twice in IMAX 3D, on the real screen at AMC Lincoln Square. As I saw MOS and other big blockbusters that I thought worth my time. After seeing the promos/trailers for the film, I got the tone. I didn't expect it to be a brooding intellectual affair; not necessarily a thinking man's sci-fi flick. I expected it to be visuall bombastic and fun. Sure there were some logic holes – and surely the acting and dialogue left much to be desired (everyone played their role as an easy-to-read archetype) – but the thrill was in the joy behind the filmmaking. In the massive scope and interplay between flesh and metal. Working to essentially legitimize and personify these robot Jaegers.

For those who won't see it based on this review, versus your impressions – or ridiculous comparison to MOS, in terms of collateral damage – that's too bad. The author was way off on his points, IMHO: the set pieces had pace and spatial awareness (I was never lost on what was going on) – and the 3D in our theater was just fine (okay it did seem to rain a lot); there weren't any obsessive long monologues (pure bullshit there, only Elba's PENTECOST has that repeated trailer moment).

The destruction was massive but considered ahead of time. Moments were shot in the film to show how the cities were evacuated/had underground bunkers. Unlike MOS, I felt more for Charlie Day's NEWT and the scared Chinese around him then any random citizens in MOS or STID. The constant worry between the Jaeger players was keep the monsters away from the coasts. Not once did a 9/11 reference enter my head since the whole premise WAS OUTRAGEOUS in the first place. And there weren't glorious beats watching skyscrapers fall; but certainly Jaegers were thrown and bashed up into them – and I felt the pilots shake and struggle to overcome that destruction.

Hello, what's effing original about ANYTHING coming out of the studios? Clearly, Del Toro, Beacham, ILM et al. were inspired by both the monster and robot/mech stories that came out of Japanese post-war and anime-pop cultures. The film is clearly a hybrid of those traditions but done with the biggest production toys to date. That's not a negative as written above; it's certainly risky. But hey GODZILLA is being remade – and a fifth JURASSIC PARK is in development – so that's okay right? Wonder what these same critics would've said if that live-action AKIRA was every put on screen… That is was derivative or that it was so "original." Bullshit bitching to me.

As tired as this critic and some of his peers have in "these types" of movies, it gets really tired and lazy, to me as a regular reader and filmmaker, that they keep throwing in COMIC-CON and FANBOY in every conversation/post like they're ruinous parasitic and spoiled entities. An effin' generation ago, no one in mainstream media wanted to touch what the kotaku folks of the world were living and breathing. Well, many of them have grown up to write properties and/or direct them in multi-million dollar films that these media conglomerates seek to make their profit margins. Somehow these creative folks have to navigate between the nerds and the hoi polloi to make something worthwhile in dozens of markets.

I for one thought PR to be the most fun sci-fi/superhero flick this year – consistently massive, tactile, and bold enough.

Kamille Bidan

"references including Japanese manga/anime ("Voltron," "Robotetch," etc.), video games (“Half Life”) "
lol dropped the review right there, you don't know shit and are talking out of your ass Mr Perez.
2/10 you made me reply


I had the feeling I was 'joining the movie already in progress' with Pacific Rim. No build up. Characters I'm supposed to care about but don't. A skip of '5 years later', the idea of a wall introduced and then disposed of in 40 seconds. Too fast, too much, and too little of what was important.

Oh, and can we PLEASE get a wide shot sometime? Why is everything in these SFX movies a close up or medium shot? Why is everything so claustrophobic? Why was everyone Australian/British? Why would you not just keep aiming guns/nukes at the portal and just zap them as soon as they come through instead of being surprised every time they show up? Why would they stop building robots but instead build a giant wall (how would that be easier? why not do both?)

Why was Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002) a much better and effective film for 1/20th the budget?

How many bombs can Legendary Pictures take?

Armando Valle

What a hipster garbage review. Guess it's not a Cannes Film Festival award winning film so the reviewer takes a shit all over it. Guillermo Del Toro is a very talented filmmaker and he based this on many iconic anime from the 80s which many of us grew up with. Our experience was just as cinematically important as any self-important art films this reviewer holds up. Not only does he take a shit on Del Toro, but also on James Cameron. What an obnoxious, deeply biased review.


Hey Playlist, shut the fuck up!


Everyone's like, "How come we can't have giant fighting robot movies? They're cool. I want them." But if I came to your house and said, "I'm going to take all your money and use it to make a giant robot fighting movie," what would you say in response? "Yes, please." I don't think so. I think you'd say, "Am I going to get my money back?" To which I'd say, "Who knows? I hope so." To which you'd say, "Maybe can you spend my money on something that's GUARANTEED to make my money back? So I don't have to worry about losing all of it?" To which I'd say, "Nothing's guaranteed in this business. But, people do like Adam Sandler. That's been proven." To which you would (hopefully, if you have any brains) say, "In that case, let's make an Adam Sandler movie instead." Follow the $$$, like Lester Freeman said. Think of it as your money and all this will start to make sense. Sure, you want a giant robot fighting movie, fine – but think of it as your money and you'll start to see that it's a business, not a backyard pinata party. Would YOU spend YOUR money on this? And not just a "safe" KickStarter amount. ALL your money. EVERY PENNY you own. Would you do it? Probably not. You'd go with what's safe, with what's proven.

David Peñasco Maldonado

Surprise, surprise… It's a crap, yeah? I can't imagine why Guillermo del Bobo has been received a blank check from WB and Legendary Films to make the most expensive fan film of the history. Godzilla vs. Robots? Seriously, were they drunk when approved this mess?


Those first 2 paragraphs are spot on. This is why I read this site.


CRAZY IDEA: You guys should have a separate set of writers to write reviews, but they stay COMPLETELY insulated from the blogosphere and other reviews. Just review films and go back to their normal lives.

This constant toggling between groupthink and severe contrarianism in these reviews is killing me. I don't care about what Comic Con crowds will think about this or what your fellow bloggers have been saying about it. Review the motherfucking work, and try to leave the opinions of others out of it.


White House Down wasn't based on a pre-existing property, so why didn't the fate of movies rest on that one? To say that if the movie going public rejects Pacific Rim it means they don't want original films is absolutely ridiculous. This movie has looked dumb and cheesy from the get-go and that's why people aren't going to go see it. And del Toro has even said he saves his "adult" type movies (i.e., something with a brain behind them) for his Spanish language work.


goddamn finally someone pointing out the hypocrisy of dooming man of steel for its massive action and destruction, just to, a mere month later, jump all over pacific rim. Also, and maybe I'm just cynical, but I find del Toro, Rian Johnson and Edgar Wright's constant mingling- and "buddying" – with the bloggers really troublesome. You its for PR and soliciting good reviews, and I wonder how many are in del Toro's pocket, at least unconsciously.


Terrible review (not for the score, that's just a matter of personal opinion; it's a terrible review because the review of the movie was crowded out by reviews of critical injustice that the author felt the need to use his platform to rectify). Are you angling for Rex Reed's position?


As much as I love Idris Elba, I'm going to pass on this. I'm sick of destruction porn. Saw that in Man of Steel.


Officially not seeing it now. Sounds kinda awful? I can always catch it sometime later. If the film is what you present it to be (stupid, dumb, cheesy, ridiculous, Michael Bay-esque) then it baffles me how it gets relatively good reviews? Assuming your opinion is the same as mine, I think the level of goodwill Guillermo del Toro has amongst critics (largely because of Pan's Labyrinth) is what's keeping Pacific Rim from being panned across the board.


Didn't you guys just give this a B+? This site has gotten so fucking confusing


Now there's the Playlist we've come to know and expect! I was kind of worried that Kevin was turning into a drooling fanboy when he wrote that article about why we can't have nice things. Or maybe he still is, and if so I hope he gets the help he deserves.


"…and plenty of sci-fi mumbo jumbo that will confuse anyone not fluent in nerd-ese…" That's enough read for me. Thanks.


Half this review is about other reviews — can't The Playlist ever just focus on the movie itself? Also, you guys seriously need to hire a copy editor. It's embarrassing.


"if the chatter is to be believed, the entire fate of the movie industry rest in the hands of one very big, wet, hulking mass of a high-concept movie"

wtf? Where do you people hang out that this is the "chatter" you hear? This movie has no buzz except among del Toro fanpeoples, the fate of nothing rests on it.

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