Pacific Rim – Review

pacific rim
© Warner Bros.

In a summer where most of the big, event movies have been overly cheerless, Pacific Rim arrives like a titan to defend moviegoers from the gloom of monster blockbusters. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the strength to prevent a barrage of clichés from beating it down.

Dealing with the 2000-ton beast in the room first, Pacific Rim looks amazing. The scope and scale of the Kaiju are astonishing, and both robot and monster move with a sense of weight and impact. Kaiju models are solid; clearly the same species but individualized and with a sense of uncertainty to how each beast differs. Jaegers aren’t as impressive. Giant robots still can’t break out of the anthropomorphic phrase and present a very obvious target (just aim for the head). Like other giant, CGI robot movies, the graphics are at times so detailed that it’s hard to find what to look for. None of these change the fact that most battles are fun, intense and, at times, badass.

To the film’s credit, it dispenses with set-up immediately rather than taking 30 minutes to progress from the trailer. Yet beyond this is a series of familiar set-ups and interactions so cliché they’re almost embarrassing, even down to a “Don’t get cocky, kid.” These clichés could be argued as homage, but they more often feel derivative, with the entire back half rehashing Independence Day. Idris Elba does his best to add gravitas to familiarity but Pacific Rim, and Del Toro in general, is at its best when veering into the eccentric. The concept of drifting allows for immediate character histories, and Mako’s memory, with its overtones of real world warfare, is especially striking. Charlie Day, Ron Perlman, the Bone Slums, Kaiju harvesting and some brief moments of playfulness provide a giddy joy so rare in the year’s blockbusters.

Perhaps the fault lies with the stakes of making a 100-million-dollar spectacle without a built-in audience, which eliminates the option of making the kind of quirky films Del Toro hopefully will produce once Pacific Rim turns a profit.

Still, it’s fun to see giant robots fight giant monsters. Even if those monsters aren’t guys in rubber suits. [subscribe2]

About Jess Kroll

Jess Kroll
Jess Kroll is a novelist and university professor born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and based in Daegu, South Korea. He has been writing film reviews since 2004 and has been exclusive to Pop Mythology since 2012. His novels include 'Land of Smiles' from Monsoon Books and young adult series 'The One' and 'Werewolf Council' from Epic Press.


  1. Accusing Pacific Rim of having cliches is like accusing a chocolate cake for having cream on it. This is a genre movie, original in its concept and narrative – yes, it’s different from Evangelion in its premise of the MO of both the humans and monsters. Another movie riddled with cliches is Silver Linings Playbook, also a genre film, that also happens to be the best of its kind and a masterpiece on top of that.

    As a filmmaker and screenwriter, I believe that the avoidance of cliches is the biggest cliche in the book, and Pacific Rim is guilty of that too, because it had some of the most unique, non-cliches in the history of the genre. Anyway, cliches are human, because they were created by humans and inspired by reality, so your “riddled-with-cliches” argument is completely invalid.

    Pacific Rim is nothing short of a masterpiece, original in its storytelling and unmatched in its spectacle and showmanship, with lovable characters each representing a relevant archetype of humanity – the best directors in history use character archetype in their films – and a pure emotional overtone that kicks off and ends off the film on the highest note of any other film this year, comparable only to, in my opinion, Before Midnight.

    Yep, Pacific Rim is hands down the best movie of the year, dramatically and visually, and nothing else this year will match it at all.

    • Jess Kroll

      Then as a “filmmaker and screenwriter” you should know that you can’t go around following every audience member to convince them to interpret and appreciate your movie in the exact same way that you do. It doesn’t make their opinion (opinion, not argument) invalid simply because they don’t agree. They won’t be convinced of the genius of your film if you don’t put that genius on the screen. Yes, Pacific Rim has its difference, especially from Evangelion which is a completely different mechanized monster in itself, but it also uses the shorthand and stock characters created by dozens of other movies in this genre. I may not be totally familiar with giant monster films, but if an audience member needs outside knowledge in other to make a film work, it means the film otherwise doesn’t work. I am, however, familiar with a lot of other movies and the fact that (SPOILER for those who haven’t seen it) the Marshall’s speech at the end of Pacific Rim is essentially a paraphrase of Bill Pullman’s from ID4 made the former feel derivative. Add the that the way the entire story from there on follows the same structure, even down to visiting the alien world before blowing up in the end, and Pacific Rim became a lot less interesting. I start thinking “I should rewatch ID4” rather than “Pacific Rim is great.” When your movie makes me think of another movie instead of yours, it means your movie is not doing its job (end of spoiler). Fact is, once Pacific Rim got underway, I mentally charted every standard scene and development of the plot. At the times when it deviated from that chart, or added something more, something fun or quirky or just interesting, it was a much better film than when I could predict every little step. The training/try-out scene, while neat, was something that was so exactly the type of scene that would be in this type of movie that it made me cringe. Yes, it’s impossible to totally avoid cliches, but it is possible to twist them, hide them, play with them, disguise them or other made some effort to vary from the norm. Anything other than that is just lazy. Silver Linings Playbook simply had more to work with in overcoming its cliches. It had characters, performance, dialogue, emotion, etc. Even then it was the rom-com requirements that kept is as one of the two or three best movies of 2012 instead of one of the two or three best movies of the 2010’s. Pacific Rim has big robots fighting monsters. It’s fun, but there isn’t nearly as many ways for it to overcome its cliches. The mishmash of homages, ripoffs, lifts, callbacks, and yes, cliches, from other films made it simply less fun to watch. But, of course, this is all just one person’s opinion, and that makes it as valid as yours, or Del Toro’s, Bill Gates or any other person in the world. The fact that this reviewer isn’t famous, or doesn’t have a big of an audience, doesn’t make his opinion any less valid. As a “filmmaker and screenwriter” your work would benefit from not trying to force your audience to view film the exact same way that you do. You argument is invalid when you try to insult or belittle fellow moviegoers. And the simple fact that you think no other movie this year (of which there are five months left) will be better than Pacific Rim even in emotion, shows a rigidity and lack of hope. And, personally, I find that very sad.

    • Well said. Have to disagree entirely, but really well said.

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