Just like last year’s “Battleship” (remember that one?), the aliens in “Pacific Rim” do not attack from above, but from undersea, and these aquatic versions of E.T. are a particularly nasty strain of invaders.
Co-written and directed by the multifaceted Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”), “Pacific Rim” is big and noisy and employs familiar aspects of science fiction, especially the bad-guys-from-outer-space elements.
Fans of anime also have pointed out its similarities to the “Evangelion” series. In an opening voice-over by the lead character, Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam from “Sons of Anarchy”), these beings, called Kaijus, apparently biding their time for centuries, start going through a deep underwater breach, surfacing from the oceans all around the Pacific Rim and conducting Godzilla-like flattening of major cities. In response the nations of the world set aside their differences and pool resources to build huge fighting robots (Transformers, anyone?) that rely on mind-melded dual pilots. These machines, Jaegars, then confront the Kaijus for some messy smackdowns.
Unfortunately, despite continual upgrades of the Jaegars, the Kaijus are getting the upper hand, and dismissing pleas from the program’s leader, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), the world leaders are ready to move on to some more effective ways of maintaining a defense.
Raleigh, meanwhile, is a hotshot Jaegar-meister, paired up with his brother Yancy (Diego Klattenhoff), until they are ripped apart in a battle and Yancy is killed. Now Raleigh survives as a construction worker until Stacker, desperate to keep the Jaegars in the loop, brings Raleigh back. As Stacker points out, “we are no longer an army; we are the resistance,” and he has a plan that might shut down the Kaijus’ attacks.
At Stacker’s side is Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi, Academy Award nominee from “Babel”), an eager potential Jaegar pilot obviously destined to be one of the heroes.
Throw in a couple of eccentric lab/math geniuses (Charlie Day and Burn Gorman) to provide key data, and you have yet another popcorn movie, complete with budding romance, macho posturing, a dog, comedy relief (Ron Perlman, who teamed up with del Toro on the “Hellboy” movies, as a harvester of dead Kaijus body parts) and the obligatory inspirational pep talk, delivered by Stacker (“Today we cancel the apocalypse!”).
The special effects are outstanding, as is to be expected, and “Pacific Rim” is yet another summer movie with destruction on a mass scale. The characters are pretty thin, although Elba’s Stacker is a commanding presence. So the viewers will not be particularly challenged, except to avoid motion sickness via the 3D presentation.