Review: 'Pacific Rim' is skillful _ and very noisy
This film image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket, left, and Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori in a scene from "Pacific Rim." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures, Kerry Hayes)
It's one of the saving graces of "Pacific Rim," Guillermo del Toro's new mega-budget monsters vs. robots extravaganza, that at a key juncture, it knows how to make fun of itself.
This welcome bit of comic relief amid all the crunching, smashing and groaning in 3-D comes just as the good guys — that would be the robots, or rather the humans operating the 25-story machines built to save humanity — have hit a snag. These massive, digitally controlled contraptions suddenly all fail at once.
But then — eureka! — someone points out that one rusty old robot is analog. And so, in a movie that has spent some $200 million to boast the very best in state-of-the-art tradecraft, an analog machine saves the day, at least temporarily. Ha! Holy retro technology.
It's too bad that del Toro's film, a throwback to the Japanese Kaiju monster films made famous by "Godzilla," doesn't have many more such deft moments. Though it's made by an obviously gifted director and will likely please devotees of the genre, it ultimately feels very short on character and long on noise, noise, noise. Did we mention the crunching, smashing and groaning?
This film publicity image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows the Gipsy Danger robot battling the Knifehead monster in a scene from "Pacific Rim." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures)
Happily, the plot is not convoluted (the script is by Travis Beacham and del Toro) and there's at least one really cool concept, called "The Drift." No, this doesn't involve land formations.
It's the mind-melding that occurs between the two pilots of each Jaeger — that's what they call the mega-robots that humans have built to fight the monsters rising from the sea. Subjected to a pre-flight "neural handshake," the pilots are suddenly sharing brains, the better to command their robot.
This leads to amusing dialogue, such as: "You know what I'm thinking?" Beat. "I'm in your brain!" That's meant to be funny, but a later remark seems inadvertently so, when the hero balks at going back to battle: "I can't have anyone in my head again!"
The real action begins some seven years into the Kaiju offensive (and circa 2020.) The Jaeger program, once successful, is failing. Global defense authorities decide to drop it and go for a giant coastal wall. Didn't they see "World War Z?" Ask Brad Pitt: Walls don't keep out zombies, and they won't keep Kaiju out, either. It's back to the Jaegers.