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Pacific Rim (2013)
Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/15/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/15/2013, Updated on 10/10/2016
This is going to sound harsh, but I must begin my review of Pacific Rim with this note -- outside of Hollywood and nerd culture, no one knows who Guillermo del Toro is. Those who dwell within those worlds will take issue with that statement, but it's true. While del Toro is bandied about as if he's a household name, despite the fact that's made an Oscar-winning film, if you stop people on the street and read a list of his movies, which one will they have heard of? Blade II. del Toro was responsible for the opening credits for the latest installment of The Simpsons' "Treehouse of Horror" and it referenced many of his movies. While watching it, I thought to myself, "There are a lot of people who aren't getting any of this." This is not to say that del Toro isn't a talented filmmaker, this is simply brought up to point out the fact that Hollywood needs to stop trying to sell movies using del Toro's name alone. I saw many message board discussions touting the fact that Pacific Rim was going to be a hit based on del Toro's name alone. I found this to be odd, as there are so many other facets of the movie which need to be discussed.
Pacific Rim opens with narration which describes how a "breech" in the floor of the Pacific Ocean allowed giant monsters, called "Kaiju", from another dimension to invade our world. These monsters caused untold destruction and took many lives. In order to fight back, humanity banded together and began building "Jaegers", massive robots which were piloted by two peoples. These machines were able to defeat the monsters, but more of them kept coming. Twelve years into the future, governments have decided to abandon Jaegers and are concentrating their efforts into building walls to keep the monsters at bay. Once great Jaeger pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) is working on one of the walls in Alaska, when he's visited by his old commander, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba). Pentecost explains that as the wall's may not work, he's now with a group in Hong Kong who are going to give the Jaegers one last shot. Despite the fact that he suffered a great loss while at the helm of a Jaeger, Raleigh agrees to help Pentecost. They arrive in Hong Kong, and Raleigh is surprised to see that his old Jaeger, "Gipsy Danger", has been re-built. He's introduced to Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), a young trainee who longs to be a pilot. Raleigh also meets the other pilots, not all of which are friendly. As Raleigh tries to get back into the swing of things, scientists in the group announce that the Kaijus are only getting bigger and that they seem to be planning something huge.
While I may question whether or not del Toro is a household name, there's no doubt that he likes to pack his movies with as much stuff as possible. However, he may have gone overboard with Pacific Rim. As a writer, I will never fault anyone for adding detail to a movie and I hate cookie-cutter movies which have nothing original to say. And I like the fact that del Toro doesn't talk down to his audience and never shies away from making movies which are decidedly part of the genre. On the other hand, for a tentpole summer movie which costs a reported $190 million, it wouldn't have hurt to have taken a step back here. The opening narration delivers a lot of information about the breech in the ocean floor, the monsters which came through it and the robots which were built to stop them. For some, this will be confusing enough, then the movies goes and throws words like "Kaiju" and "Jaeger" at us. (For the record, "Kaiju" has been used to describe monsters like Godzilla for decades.) Then, we get the baffling explanation about how it take two pilots to run a "Jaeger", and they mind-meld, in something called "The Drift", so that their left and right hemispheres can run the thing. Yes, I get that it's a big machine, but I move my arm and it moves its arm. It's just that simple. "The Drift" becomes a key plot point late in the film, but it still seems unnecessary. And the reasons why the wall was adopted in lieu of the "Jaeger" program isn't explained very well.
We won't debate the originality of Pacific Rim at the moment. For argument's sake, let's say that the movie is filled with new ideas. Then how come the film insists on sticking those ideas to a hackneyed, melodramatic story. When you strip away the robots vs. monsters angle, everything here has been seen in other movies. We get the pilot who was scarred by tragedy and walked away from the action and ends up in blue collar work. We get his old boss who convinces him to come back. We get the rookie with the mysterious past and the rival who can't stop picking fights with our hero. We have the quirky scientists -- Charlie Day and Burn Gorman -- who bicker constantly. The coup de grace is a speech made by Pentecost which will immediately remind most of the President's speech from Independence Day. The only cliche which Pacific Rim didn't embrace was having the villain from the opening return for the finale -- and that's only because it wouldn't have made any sense.
I realize that all of this makes Pacific Rim sound like a disaster, but it isn't. The film simply bites off more than it can chew and makes promises about originality and drama which it doesn't fulfill. While the movie was hailed as del Toro's vision, keep in mind that Writer Travis Beacham came up with the initial story and shares screenwriting credit with del Toro. Also, while some may find the film very original, the monsters are obviously based on a multitude of Japanese giant monster movies and TV shows and the Japanese have a decades-old obsession with humans using giant robots (often called "mechs" to fight). Having said all of that, if you go into Pacific Rim not expecting the greatest thing ever, then you will find a movie which has appeal. There's no denying that the action scenes are exciting (although I wish at least one had occurred during the day) and the wrestling-like battles are well-choreographed. The robots are cool looking, as are what we can see of the monsters (they are often in the shadows). Mako's flashback once again proves that del Toro knows great visuals, he just can't ever deliver a complete, satisfying story. Casual viewers may find themselves scratching their heads, while long-time giant monsters and/or robots fans will find a few things to like, but Pacific Rim simply doesn't deliver the thrills which many expected.
Pacific Rim doesn't hide the political implications of the wall on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 23 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing on notable grain and no defects from the source materials. The film is dark at times, but the it's never too dark (although it comes close at times). The image is certainly sharper during the better-lit scenes. We get a nice amount of detail here (as we can make out textures on objects) and the depth, even in this 2D version, is impressive. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a powerful track which delivers nearly constant surround sound and stereo effects. Some of these tracks are very detailed and we can make out individual sounds in the rear channels. As one would expect, the subwoofer is a big part of this movie and we feel every step the "Jaegers" make and every roar of the "Kaiju".
The Pacific Rim Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. The Disc which contains the film offers an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director/Co-Writer Guillermo del Toro. "Focus Points" (62 minutes) is a 13-part "Making of" which examines many facets of the film's production. Utilizing on-set footage and interviews with del Toro, the cast and the creative team, we learn about the robots, the monsters, the sets, the visual effects, the cast, and the music. The remainder of the extras are found on a separate "Special Features" Blu-ray Disc. "The Director's Notebook" is an interactive feature which allows us to explore Del Toro's concept drawings and notes to see his plans for the film. When the characters enter "The Drift" in the film, we see very quick montages. "Drift Space" (5 minutes) slows these down and offers text to explain what we are seeing. "The Digital Artistry of Pacific Rim" (17 minutes) examines the film's visual effects and allows us to see how the digital artists created the Jaegers and Kaijus. "The Shatterdome" is a library of concept art and animatics which explore the designs and creations of the sets, locations, costumes, and creatures for the film. The Disc contains four DELETED SCENES which run about four minutes. These are all short and don't introduce any new characters or ideas. The final extra is a 4-minute BLOOPER REEL.
On October 4, 2016, Warner Home Video brought Pacific Rim to 4k Ultra HD Disc. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 2160p HD transfer. The image is sharp and clear, showing no noticeable grain and no defects from the source materials. If I've noticed one thing in the short time that 4K Ultra HD has been around, it's that darker movies don't show the same sort of difference in the image that their lighter peers do, and Pacific Rim is a dark movie. That's not to say that this transfer doesn't look good, it does, but we get very few of those "so bright and crisp that it nearly hurts your eyes" moments like I've seen on other movies. (During the first fight, if that monster didn't glow, we'd never see it.) Still, the picture here certainly shows off a very nice crispness and there is no denying that the image is clear and free from any haloes or noise. The colors look good and the few bright colors really stand out. The depth delivered by the picture is impressive and the image is never soft. Again, this looks good, but it's only a minor improvement over the Blu-ray Disc. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This movie is filled with bombastic sound effects and they come through loud and clear here. The battle sequences bring us notable surround and stereo effects. These effects are very detailed and we can pick out individual sounds. The subwoofer effects are wall-shaking, as the kaiju's roars are both heard and felt. This track is an improvement over the Blu-ray Disc.
The Pacific Rim 4k Ultra HD Disc does not contain any extras, but it comes with a Blu-ray Disc which has all of the extras from the previous release.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.