I went in to Pacific Rim with slightly warped expectations because my only real knowledge of the giant-robots-fighting-giant-monsters genre comes from an unhealthy obsession with Neon Genesis Evangelion.
So, rather foolishly, I expected Pacific Rim to have at least a little bit of focus on character development, a smidgen of sophisticated storytelling and some inkling of emotional resonance.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked Pacific Rim. It looked incredible. The Jaeger and Kaiju designs were spectacular. The action scenes were electrifying. It just completely sucked in terms of character and story.
By the end of the film I still didn’t know the names of any of the characters (except for Hannibal Chau, because you just don’t forget a name as stupid as that) and I could barely tell the main generic American guy from the main generic Australian guy. In fact, those two guys looked so similar that I kept waiting for the cloning subplot to surface.
Speaking of generic Australian guy, what the fuck was with those accents? They sounded like a pair of cockney British men trying to relearn how to speak after suffering a brain aneurysm. Those guys made Tarantino’s turn in Django sound authentic. It’s embarrassing that people think we actually sound like that. Why not just hire Australian actors? We have plenty of bland muscly white dudes down here too.
I will give Guillermo kudos for saying that he wanted the female pilot to be on equal footing as her male counterparts, rather than being a “sex kitten.” She probably came the closest out of all the characters to having any sort of development, but it still wasn’t enough to engage me emotionally. In fact, the characters weren’t particularly emotionally engaged either (except for Idris Elba, who was so engaged that he kept yelling when there was really no need to raise his voice). Quite a few characters died, but no one was really bothered about it. Perhaps they were hardened by years of war. Or perhaps they just forgot to write that sort of stuff into the script.
It’s probably my own fault that I didn’t like Pacific Rim as much as I’d hoped to. I couldn’t help but keep comparing it to something right at the opposite end of the genre’s spectrum. At the end of the day, it was a movie about awesome giant things having awesome giant battles, and in that regard it succeeded completely. I just feel like it could have done a little bit more. In this post-Inception world, we know that big, blockbuster movies can be smart AND successful. We keep being promised another sci-fi extravaganza with brains (*cough*Prometheus*cough*) but no one is quite delivering on those promises.
Right now, my fingers are crossed for Elysium to get the balance right.