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Critics Battle Over ‘Pacific Rim’

Critics Battle Over 'Pacific Rim'

Like a lot of people who love intelligent spectacle on a grand scale — you know, movies — I’ve got more than a little emotional capital invested in Pacific Rim being great. So it broke my heart when I tuned in this morning and saw the first wave of reviews, which, at least in my Twitter feed, seemed to agree that Guillermo del Toro’s robots-vs-monsters tentpole was all explosions and no heart. Further research has revealed a slightly more complicated picture, one that at least leaves some hope going into the film’s opening weekend. 

Whether pro or con, Pacific Rim‘s critics seem to agree on a frame of reference: A young boy playing in the basement or the bathtub, devising ever more elaborate and catastrophic battles between action figures, with whom the movie’s characters are sometimes unfavorably compared. For all its destruction, the movie’s point of view is essentially childlike, pre-ironic, or as Screen Daily’s Tim Grierson puts it,  
Director Guillermo del Toro has crafted a dopey, earnest and occasionally visionary sci-fi action film that keeps being dragged down by its drab characters and indifferent performances. Perhaps that’s fitting for a movie in which humans take a backseat to effects in terms of generating visceral emotional responses…. 
As he’s demonstrated in his comic-book films, del Toro wields a childlike innocence in Pacific Rim that makes the life-and-death stakes seem rather weightless. Resembling a kid happily smashing his toys together in the backyard while playing pretend, del Toro’s film has an uncomplicated air about it…. 
And yet, Pacific Rim can be powerfully engaging once del Toro focuses on one of several full-scale battle scenes, any pretense of character depth or dramatic nuance stripped away so that really big robots and really scary monsters can duke it out. Unlike Michael Bay’s Transformers movies, Pacific Rim manages to make the super-sized action sequences feel appreciably colossal and yet still understandable. 
For HitFix’s Drew McWeeny, del Toro brings back the sense of awe he felt when he first saw Star Wars, a sensation he wonders if today’s action-saturated audiences are still able to connect with. 
Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim is a movie that is loaded with images and ideas that are fantastic, in every sense of the word, and yet I worry that we’ve reached a point where audiences shrug at the promise of the new…. 
There is an earnest, straightforward voice to the storytelling, and it reminded me of the films that Hollywood churned out in the early ’40s to convince America that the war effort was essential and heroic and we were on the side of right. If you look at Pacific Rim as propaganda made towards the end of the infamous Kaiju/Human war, it has this great adventure movie tone that I find really infectious. 
More in that vein: 
Devin Faraci, Badass Digest:
Guillermo del Toro has achieved a feat of world building unseen on movie screens since Star Wars. This is a rich, full, detailed universe that lives at the very corner of the frame.
Robbie Colin, Telegraph:
At first, watching Pacific Rim feels like rediscovering a favourite childhood cartoon — but del Toro has flooded the project with such affection and artistry that, rather than smiling nostalgically, you find yourself enchanted all over again.
Todd Gilchrist, The Verge
Ultimately, all Pacific Rim really needed to be was a clear-eyed, proficient example of high-concept thrill-ride storytelling, whether or not its “original” premise was particularly original. But del Toro accomplishes that task and then some, making one of the most satisfying movies of the summer — and one of the best of his career — by creating not just a new world, but one whose mythology actually deserves a universe.
In the “What did you expect?” category, critics praise the movie, sometimes faintly, for doing what it set out to do. 
Jordan Hoffman, Film.com
While hardly a mature, intellectual or subtle affair, Pacific Rim is adolescent glee writ large. Guillermo Del Toro and his team promised monsters versus giant robots and boy howdy they delivered. It is one of the better dumbass sci-fi action movies to come down the pike in quite some time…. This is playtime and imagination drawn from a number of different sources and it is, when compared to its peer group, of extremely high caliber. 
Stephanie Zacharek, Village Voice:  
Everything you think is going to happen does. One character chokes at the moment of truth; noble warriors sacrifice for the cause. But del Toro shapes the movie so it’s not just one booming attack after another: There’s breathing space amid the action, and in a gorgeously choreographed sequence, old-fashioned hand-to-hand human-to-human combat becomes its own special effect. 
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter:
In most ways, this paradoxically derivative yet imaginative sci-fi epic is everything every monster movie since the beginning of time might have wished it could be: In no way pinched budget-wise, it’s got first-class special effects, crafty behemoths that calculate and react to circumstances in non-dumb ways, a smart director who injects a sense of fun and surprise whenever he can, a fair percentage of characters you don’t mind watching and a few decent plot twists. In this genre, that’s saying something. 

Mike Ryan, Huffington Post:

Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, a movie about giant robots that fight giant monsters, is a little over two hours of pure sugar. If you are in the mood to eat pure sugar, you will most likely enjoy Pacific Rim
And then there are the out-and-out pans, which only make me cry a little. 
Eric Kohn, Indiewire:
Compared to some of the more leaden spectacles this summer, White House Down and the final hour of Man of Steel chief among them, Pacific Rim has the inventive, colorful textures of a fully realized world. But that’s only enough to make it a slightly different kind of dumb from the usual messy blockbuster routine. 
Justin Chang, Variety:
Of all the doom-laden fantasies the studios have rolled out this summer, Pacific Rim is the one pushing itself most aggressively as guilt-free entertainment, offering up an apocalyptic spectacle in a spirit of unpretentious, unapologetic fun. Which it will be, at least for those who measure fun primarily in terms of noise, chaos and bombast, or who can find continual novelty in the sight of giant monsters and robots doing battle for the better part of two hours. Viewers with less of an appetite for nonstop destruction should brace themselves for the squarest, clunkiest and certainly loudest movie of director Guillermo del Toro’s career, a crushed-metal orgy that plays like an extended 3D episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers on very expensive acid. 
Ed Gonzales, Slant Magazine:
 [I]n spite of its narrative richness and thoughtfulness, Pacific Rim lacks for poignancy. For all the attention paid to how soldiers puppet the jaegers in ostensibly empathetic lockstep, del Toro only skims the surface of his human relationships, asking audiences to only take them at face value. 
Anton Bitel, Grolsch Film Works:
The metal-on-flesh set-pieces are undoubtedly spectacular — and beautifully realized — but they’re also rather alienating, and quickly become repetitive despite an impressive variety of creature designs and fighting techniques. 
Andrew Pulver, Guardian
[T]he film is hampered by a fundamental imbalance: Pacific Rim‘s wafer-thin psychodrama and plot-generator dialogue provides little for the human component to get their teeth into. Actual wit is in very short supply, particularly in regard to the putative light relief, a couple of shockingly unfunny wacky-scientist types played by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman.

Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

Pacific Rim offers a few laughs and a few thrills, but it feels like a very large platter serving a disappointingly meager meal. Unlike its scaly cinematic ancestors, it never feels like the kind of movie that’s going to inspire a seven-year-old to roar and knock over the Lego city he built for just that purpose. 

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