July 18, 2013

'Pacific Rim' a decent summer blockbuster


---- — Admit it. You saw the trailers for “Pacific Rim” and immediately thought “Transformers 7: Guillermo del Toro Sells Out.”

“Pacific Rim,” however, defies that gut reaction. It’s every bit as big and loud as one would expect a movie about giant robots and monsters to be, but it’s not stupid, and it doesn’t treat its viewers as if they are either.

Sorry for doubting you Mr. del Toro.

In the film, Earth is under siege from a race of giant creatures, who have vaulted through a giant crack in the ocean’s floor — and through some kind of portal from another world — to wreak havoc.

The creatures, called Kaiju, come in a wide variety (land, sea or air, with a nifty collection of attack methods) and prove to be nearly indestructible, until the great minds of the planet come together and devise the “Jaegers,” massive robots controlled by a pair of human pilots neuro-linked together.

For a while, the Jaegers turn the tide of the war, but the Kaiju soon adapt and grow more powerful, putting humanity on the verge of extinction.

Del Toro, the director of “Pan’s Labyrinth,” also co-wrote the screenplay and makes sure to give “Pacific Rim” a coherent story line, while spending at least a little time (thinly) developing the characters.

The acting performances aren’t particularly memorable, but they are serviceable. Charlie Hunnam (“Sons of Anarchy”) blandly plays the hero, Raleigh Bartlet, a one-time star Jaeger pilot who is brought back to the program out of desperation. Rinko Kikuchi (“Babel”) is his would-be replacement partner, Mako Mori.

Idris Elba (“Prometheus”) probably stands out more than anyone as the stoic leader of the Jaeger program, while the uneven comic relief is provided by Charlie Day (“Horrible Bosses”) and Burn Gorman (“Torchwood”) as brilliant but feuding scientists.

Ron Perlman (the title character in del Toro’s “Hellboy” films) is also on hand as a black-market organ dealer, but he doesn’t have much to do.

“Pacific Rim” is fun on a grand scale. It’s a true big-screen spectacle that brings back memories of Saturday monster matinees from the Godzilla era, but with much higher production values.

There are battles and explosions aplenty, to be sure, but viewers won’t leave the theater feeling as if their IQ just dropped 20 points. This is what summer blockbusters are supposed to look like.

Rental recommendation: The robots aren’t quite as big, but Hugh Jackman has a lot of rock ‘em, sock ‘em fun in “Real Steel.” Grade: B+

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Pacific Rim

Grade: B+

Starring: Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi

Rated: PG-13 (for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief language)

Running time: 131 minutes