I didn’t get to see Pacific Rim in the cinema, but I’m not that sure that having missed it there is a huge loss. On a 52″ high definition plasma screen and at high volume – albeit without surround sound – you arguably get a better experience than the cinema. It can be hard to track what’s going on up on a cinema screen if you have to turn your head and if you don’t get good seats that can be even worse. You also don’t have to pay a stupid amount, you can avoid the 3D and once you’ve watched a disc 2-3 times you’ve gotten your value for money compared to a cinema visit anyway. You also don’t have to sit in spilled cola or have the back of your seat kicked.
I think, if you can afford halfway decent entertainment devices, the cinema has become redundant. With the internet you can also share your enthusiasm without having to whisper or spoil anyone else’s fun. I’ve felt this way for a while, but I think Pacific Rim cemented the fact that I can now get a better-than-cinema experience at home.
Pacific Rim is a great adventure movie and Del Toro’s love letter to the anime and mecha series of the past as well as the Japanese kaiju genre as a whole. It features giant robots smashing giant monsters in the face and really that’s all you need to know. Going into it you know that the day will be saved, the monsters defeated and humanity will stand triumphant. It doesn’t matter that you know though, this is modern cinematic technology, tried and true storytelling, old-school adventure and all delivered with a sense of joy and excitement that pervades the whole film.
The technology allows the giant robots and monsters to feel ‘weighty’ and ‘real’ while the lighting, style and detail simultaneously make them dream like and epic. The storytelling is age old, coming of age, facing up to responsibilities, facing evil, fighting for the highest stakes. The joy and excitement Del Toro has for the genre and its content – coupled with his attention to detail – brings the whole thing to life in a way that brings to mind a six year old jumping up and down and thrusting toys in your face while reciting endless detail about them – and it’s infectious.
This is apparent from the film, which is beautiful, epic and stirring, despite not treading any particular new ground in its story (other than the female lead not really being anyone’s romantic interest). It is even more apparent from the commentary and the special features in which Del Toro speaks often and at length about his passion for the project and the genres involved and this really comes across.
Visually there are only nods to the anime and kaiju influences, really the designs are their own thing, a new visual language for mecha and monsters taken from nature and from various other sources rather than the obvious ones. Every little detail is thought out and watching and re-watching the film you will always find new detail and new depth in the background.
The only real weak points in the film were, for me, the scenes with Charlie Day’s scientist character ‘Newt’ who, despite having really cool tribal-style Kaiju tattoos was mostly annoying and whose scenes played out a bit too much like that 1998 abortion of a western Godzilla film. I could see the need for humour to be injected into the film but it was almost like he was in a completely different film to everyone else.
The best part of the bonus disc is the ‘notebook’ presentation of Del Toros ideas. The film apparently had a many-hundred-page setting bible and even though the film is fast-paced and doesn’t dwell on detail too much you can feel the weight behind it and you get more of an insight into that depth from the sketches, the explanations and the ideas presented in the extras. It’s some of the better bonus material I’ve seen for any disc.