Movie review: Pacific Rim a superior creature feature

By Russell Baillie

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Comparing Pacific Rim to Transformers because it also features giant metal things thumping about the planet is like comparing director Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy films to your standard superhero movie.

Yes the big red guy was in a comic book too, but it's just not the same.

And the many ways this feels different are what make Pacific Rim a far smarter explosion of big dumb fun as it pits giant human-piloted robots against monsters from another planet who keep emerging from a wormhole in the middle of the titular ocean.

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It's also that blockbuster season rarity - an original. Although it's almost a homage to the Japanese pop culture likes of Godzilla and Ultraman, and there are moments in this that recalls the bigger-they-are-the-harder-they-fall pathos of Ted Hughes' Iron Giant, a cartoon feature of which appeared in 1999.

Del Toro's peculiar sensibilities - some of the monsters here could have cousins in Pan's Labyrinth - have survived the transition to a mega-budget movie. Still, it has some of the usual faults when it comes to big CGI stuff: like who's exactly thumping who? Which mega-beast is that?

That's not helped by most of the action taking place out on the storm-lashed Pacific at night - or, in the final stages, 20,000 leagues below it.

But del Toro knows all that mega-action stuff only really engages the audience if it's bedded in character. So making the giant robots (or "jaegars") have two pilots, their interconnected minds the only way of having enough brainpower for the fights with the monsters (or "kaiju") is really a bit of masterstroke: You get to root for the iron giants and the mind-melded mates doing the virtual reality fisticuffs inside the bots at the same time.

There's another smart move: setting this years into the kaiju war in a world where those in the jaegar business are falling on desperate times as governments - which initially built the big brawlers and put them in national colours - start to look for more budget-conscious solutions to preventing the apocalypse.

That gives this an amusingly cynical world-weary and decidedly non-American sheen. Though Idris Elba as the robot squad's commander does offer his own variation on the Independence Day speech and robo-pilots Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi risk being the designated will-they-won't-they couple of the piece.

But like everything in this lateral-minded neatly-paced mega-action flick, those characters and the relationships don't play to the usual rules. All of which makes Pacific Rim utterly, stupidly terrific.

Stars: 4/5
Cast: Idris Elba, Charlie Day, Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Director: Guillermo del Toro
Rating: M (violence)
Running time: 131 minutes
Verdict: Not your usual monster mash but quite smashing.

- TimeOut

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- NZ Herald

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