Given all the hoopla over Johnny Depp playing a Native American in The Lone Ranger, one wonders what would happen if Australians kicked up a fuss about the fact that there are two Australian characters in Pacific Rim who have major roles but are not played by Australian actors. Forget for a moment that the imposters’ accents are bloody awful – the audience couldn’t stop laughing whenever Robert Kazinsky tried to mimic the Aussie occa. Indeed, the reaction would be a shrug of the shoulders and a polite ‘get over it, they’re actors’. So why is Depp victimised again?
But I digress, shonky accents notwithstanding, Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim is a movie with extra cheese melting off the sides. It’s Transformers meets Godzilla; the premise here is that monstrous aliens dubbed Kaiju are invading Earth through a portal that’s opened at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, and humanity is battling the gigantic beasts using equally massive robots called Jaegers. We learn that the Jaegers are controlled by two compatible pilots whose minds meld when they’re at the helm – this raises a bunch of interested ethical issues, none of which are explored by the cliché screenplay.
Speaking of writing, the story is sadly predictable, overlooking the human element for whizz-bang special effects, and is full of bland dialogue (conveyed by wonky accents). Charlie Hunnam as protagonist Raleigh Becket makes no impression in a very forgettable performance. His co-star Rinko Kikuchi is more memorable as Becket’s love interest and compatible Jaeger co-pilot (oh, so that’s why that’s used as a storytelling device!). Prometheus‘ Idris Elba’s commanding officer also does well in a stern role, giving a short but rousing speech that’s already entered the geekdom lexicon based on the trailer alone. Throw in a little Ron Perlman for good measure – it’s a Guillermo del Toro film after all – and a zany scientist played by Charlie Day to add a bit of colour to the proceedings.
But while the story disappoints, the action doesn’t – and I suspect that’s all that’ll matter for most. Clearly drawing inspiration from the gamut of Japanese mecha stories, the action plays like Real Steel on an epic scale – robots brawling with plasma-spewing dinosaurs on steroids. Fortunately, it’s all easy to follow and not a mindless cacophony of banging, clanging and smashing. Guillermo changes up his setpieces and makes them visually distinctive with some occasionally startling imagery, while nailing the over-the-top spectacle. Best viewed on the big screen and in 3D to enhance the already grand scope of the production, Pacific Rim is truly for the hidden Power Rangers and Voltron fan inside of us.
Transformers meets Godzilla, with bland characters and wonky accents but spot-on mecha action!