Pacific Rim Blu-ray Review
The phrase “monsters vs. robots” should garner the attention of any self-respecting science fiction fanatic. However, eliciting the attention of what is the most targeted audience demographic of the past 20 years is about as difficult as prompting a “who would win” argument in a comic book store. It’s in the appeasing process where patience starts to wear extremely thin for plot holes, lack of originality and all things deemed illogical. Apparently the makers of PACIFIC RIM came to the realization that in order to separate their film from the sci-fi pack, they would take an army of Godzilla-like creatures, enslave them to INDEPENCE DAY-like aliens, who disperse them to fight Earth’s super-sized TRANSFORMER-like robots, that are controlled by a STARSHIP TROOPER-like military force, which ultimately focuses on a TOP GUN-like dynamic between the robots’ human pilots.
Oh PACIFIC RIM, it’s a good thing you’re pretty.
After an inter-dimensional rift opens up in the floor of the Pacific Ocean (as they do), Earth is attacked by 200 foot monsters known as Kaijus. The nations of the world are forced to pool their resources in order to defeat their common enemy. They create the “Jaeger Program,” robotic monstrosities equal in stature to that of the Kaijus and manned by teams of two mentally-linked human pilots through a process called “the drift.” As the Kaijus that enter Earth through the rift evolve and become increasingly devastating, the Jaegers become less and less effective. Eventually world leaders decide to stop funding the program and focus attention on building a tremendous wall around the rift. Knowing that the wall has zero chance of containing the Kaijus, the leader of the “Jaeger Program,” Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba, THOR, THE WIRE), decides to make a “last stand” with all the remaining Jaegers at the rift and attempt to close the portal once and for all.
Because this disc should definitely be owned by all videophile enthusiasts, let’s start with the good. You will be hard sought to find a Blu-ray that will show off your home theater system better than PACIFIC RIM. This film is a magnificent visual achievement. CGI has come a long way since its inception, but when combined with large-scale physical sets, the ultimate result surpasses anything that can be rendered by computers alone. The battle scenes between the Kaijus and the Jaegars, while not very creative in way of combat, are very stunning to witness purely on an eye-candy level.
Unfortunately after the audiences’ eyes become jaded, which in today’s society takes all of 20 minutes, all you’re left with is a story that appears to have taken even less time to write. PACIFIC RIM tries to walk a schizophrenic line between being a fun popcorn sci-fi flick, a gritty dystopian/apocalyptic tale and a Verhoeven-esque satirist war film. So of course it fails miserably on all three accounts. The film begins with a 17-minute voice-over montage that brings the audience up to speed in the year 2020 and in the middle of the war. Tragically, all the material in the montage is what should’ve been the entire focus of the film. Instead, it’s like the filmmakers just wanted to forgo all the hard work of sculpting out a great story and skip right on into a disappointing sequel. The rest of the film is pretty much “Pacific Rim 2,” bogged down by tedious, insipid scenes involving 2-D human characters that have about as much depth as a piece of matzah. And when the robots and monsters finally do come back for Act 3, they are grossly misused in bland fight sequences that barely rival the choreography of an 8-year-old playing with his action figures.
Polarizing writer/director/producer Guillermo del Toro (HELLBOY, PAN’S LABYRINTH) seems to have left every ounce of his imaginative story telling abilities behind him for this production, focusing all of his energy into creating a fantastic piece of visual art. There is no semblance of the rich character development or acceptance of a fantastical world that he was able to convey in the HELLBOY films, nor is there any weight of del Toro’s signature eeriness from films like PAN’S LABYRINTH. PACIFIC RIM actually comes off more like del Toro was in “the drift” with Michael Bay (TRANSFORMERS).
99.9% of this film’s entertainment value comes from the Jaegers fighting the Kaiju; the only semi-salvageable human performance is from Idris Elba as the commander of the “Jaeger Program.” Elba delivers a yeoman’s effort with a thin script and gives it all he’s got during a moment that the writers must have thought was going to somehow rival Bill Pullman’s speech in INDEPENDENCE DAY, on the contrary it falls completely flat, waiting for the day an amateur editor inserts the Pac-Man death sound at the end of it and posts in on YouTube.
Other cast members like Charlie Hunnam (SONS OF ANARCHY) and Robert Kazinsky (TRUE BLOOD) perform more like they are giving an audition and are unable to elevate their game to the next level from their mostly television roots. The comic relief is handled by Charlie Day (HORRIBLE BOSSES, IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILIDELPHIA) and like Elba he too does his best with a script that if it wasn’t able to make monsters vs. robots entertaining, it certainly wasn’t going to achieve any heights in comedy. There are some small glimmers of light where Day goes off script with a cameo by Ron Perlman, who was severely underutilized and instead should’ve been one of the stars of a film desperately starving for some depth and personality.
PACIFIC RIM is the culmination of every cliché critique about Hollywood simply throwing a bunch of money at a production and hoping the audience will be distracted away from the film’s severe shortcomings by the shiny, expensive decorations. However, its saving grace is that a breakthrough in any aspect of filmmaking is something that is seldom marginalized. Hopefully these awe-inspiring special effects and production values can now be mimicked and utilized with a more intelligent script and a director who places the eminence of a package’s contents on the same plane with the brilliance of the wrapping paper.
PACIFIC RIM BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 1080p/AVC MPEG-4, 1.85:1 Widescreen: Any self-respecting videophile makes sure they have at least one or two specific Blu-rays for no other reason than to show off their home theater systems. Good movie, bad movie, it makes no difference, they are simply referred to as “demo discs.” Many people will literally keep PACIFIC RIM in their collections for this purpose alone. The MPEG-4 transfer is simply flawless. Every last detail in the creatures and the battle robots has vast depth and incredible texture. Even non-FX scenes are superior with excellent black levels and rich environments.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 7.1: Lossless audio is available on this disc in 5.1 and 7.1 DTS-HD. Every scraping piece of metal crushing into the monsters’ scaly skin can be heard even amongst all the explosions and roaring of the beasts. Strip away all the parts where human beings speak and PACIFIC RIM is truly an immersive experience.
Audio Commentary by Guillermo del Toro – Del Toro is a very passionate director and is very honest about every aspect of the filming process. Even if you don’t like the film, it’s interesting to hear him break down the scenes and what it took complete them the way he envisioned.
The Director’s Notebook – This is definitely one of the more original bonus features you’ll ever see. It’s sort of an interactive digital diary of del Toro’s creative process. You have the option of flipping through pages where you’ll find designs and sketches, hand-written notes and video blurbs.
Focus Points (62 min) – This feature is broken down into 13 separate subsections. The 13 featurettes cover everything from the directing style and physical preparation of the actors to intricate explanation of the special effects and how the large scale sets were vital to enable a seamless mesh with the CGI. If you have the extra hour they are definitely all worth the watch if you’re a big connoisseur of behind-the-set information.
Drift Space (5 min) – The drifting sequences are slowed down and info boxes appear with bios on the main characters. Pretty much a filler-feature, the characters in the movie are barely interesting with the info in the actual movie.
The Digital Artistry of ‘Pacific Rim’ (17 min) – If you don’t like to have the “magic curtain” pulled down to reveal just how boring and tedious real movie making is, then don’t watch this feature. It takes you through the visual effects meetings and shows how every single solitary detail is discussed before it gets the green light to make it to the final rendering.
The Shatterdome – Like “Focus Points” this feature has its own set of menu items to choose from. It includes a lot of pre-production work like concept videos and art for the design of the Kaijus and Jaegers. It also has concept art for the costumes and cinematography.
Deleted Scenes (4 min) – 4 deleted scenes that, as usual, do not bring much to the table. The only exception may be a little more background info on the characters of Chuck and Herc Hansen.
Blooper Reel (4 min) – Definitely worth the watch simply to see more of Charlie Day be uncomfortable around Ron Perlman.