You, more than anyone, can understand why I thought this would be just like all the other big summer movies I've seen lately: a big CGI-slam-bang-action-fest, and a bit of a bummer. So imagine my surprise: despite the fact that Pacific Rim contains almost every single cliche of a 2013 summer blockbuster movie, it isn't this year's Battleship. It's actually a huge pile of block-busting fun.
How is that even possible? The story consists of humankind's last desperate battle against impossible aliens rising up out of the sea, where all hope lies with giant (and I mean freakin' huge) robots and some sick and troubled people. Director Guillermo del Toro and screenwriter Travis Beacham obviously sent you some anime references before production. The influences are clear, but instead of any name-checks, they simply borrowed to give their story shape and heft. In fact, the key thread that seems to tie the film together is the actual fighting.
The massive robot-vs-monster punch-fights have a wonderful physicality to them. Clearly you were thinking of how these battles would actually play out, and how to add stakes and drama to all-CGI scenes. Awesome. Well done. Unlike almost every other movie this summer, I knew what was going on during almost every moment in each fight scene - and I cared.
On the human side, key emotional moments are punctuated with confrontation and duels. The interpersonal punch-fights sort out the negative even positive relationships between characters, giving them depth and moving the plot while still being action-tastic.
Thankfully, this movie is also not this year's Prometheus. The actors are used well. Idris Elba gets to do his thing! The scientists are interesting and enjoyable, even when they are doing really stupid things, played for fun and profit by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman. The leads, Rinko Kikuchi and Charlie Hunnam are fine. In fact, all the actors are put to good use, well choreographed to the needs of an entertaining action extravaganza.
Don't get me wrong - this isn't the best movie ever. It's not going to change your mind about anything or introduce any novel plot twists you've never seen (although having a male and female lead that _don't _hook up was pretty damn refreshing). But I am pleased because I wasn't annoyed by the end of it. The movie let me like it without being brooding or mopey (surprising, considering the dark subject matter).
If I have let my critical compass go a bit off-center, I can't be blamed. The themes in this (and every?) summer are clearly laid out. Man of Steel, Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, and World War Z all rely on the same heavy-handed bits. There are the 9/11 parallels, man crushes, hand-job treatment of the military, unconvincing emotional arcs, two-hour-plus runtimes, the deaths of thousands, and some half-witty dialogue to brighten it all up. In the end you mostly feel tired, and the lack of subtext or even text makes you regret talking about the movie too much afterwards. But this time, I didn't fight it.
And those robots! They were really big. Which makes me want to ask you something I wouldn't ever do in person. Your IMDB bio says you are shorter than Jackie Chan. Was it weird to plan such big fights? Or did that make you the perfect man for the job? You don't have to answer.