They're on a mission.
"Go big or go home" may well have been the mantra for the producers of "Pacific Rim." The mega-blockbuster film from director Guillermo del Toro ("Pan's Labyrinth") delivers its action on a massive scale while paying homage to the Japanese monster flicks that inspired it.
On the surface, "Pacific Rim" seems like little more than "Transformers vs. Godzilla," but undertones about teamwork and del Toro's deft touch keep the picture from drowning beneath its own weight.
This sci-fi spectacle takes place in the not-too-distant future, when deadly creatures (think dinosaurs on steroids) begin emerging from the Pacific Ocean. To battle said beasts (appropriately dubbed "kaiju"), human beings develop life-sized robots (called "jaegers") operated by pairs or trios of compatible fighters. One such fighter is Raleigh Becket ("Sons of Anarchy" heartthrob Charlie Hunnam), whose expertise in a jaeger is unparalleled.
A tragedy quickly forces Raleigh to rethink his career path, until military leader Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) urges him back into the jaeger biz. Raleigh will have to click quickly with rookie Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) to help defend against a kaiju onslaught while researcher Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia") and mathematician Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) hunt for a scientific solution.
"Pacific Rim" belongs in the discussion as one of the most visually impressive films ever made, from the kaijus' textured hides to the jaegers' robotic gadgetry. The ho-hum script is less encouraging with its unimaginative dialogue ("Oh my God!" and "Let's finish this!" are commonplace).
The acting is more varied, with the always excellent Elba commanding the screen and funnyman Day delivering needed comic relief. Hunnam -- who looks the part and tackles the martial-arts choreography with aplomb -- may not be quite ready to carry the leading-man torch. He doesn't bring much nuance or subtlety to his role, shifting between charming rogue and defiant soldier.
"Pacific Rim" is often too big for its own good. Kaijus rip through skyscrapers as though tearing papier-mache, and jaegers wield ocean liners with Barry Bonds-esque enthusiasm. The intimacy of those suffering on the ground gets lost during the visual slugfest, with the exception of a subplot involving Mako Mori.
But del Toro handles "Pacific Rim" with the same enthusiasm Peter Jackson brought to his "King Kong" remake and J.J. Abrams lent "Star Trek." He infuses this monstrous undertaking with just what it needs a little heart.
Rated PG-13 for intense sci-fi action and violence, and brief language. Two hours, 11 minutes.
- Tyler Hanley