I will say, up-front, that this is a popcorn movie done right. This isn’t a movie that will make you question the human condition or objective reality. It will, however, make your blood pump. This is an awesome movie for the summer season and it gets most everything right in its genre. When the film first started, I was kind of worried. It played like it was the trailer. But very quickly, the film found its footing and took off into a pre-apocalyptic story about a group of soldiers who are holding the line against an almost-unstoppable enemy.
The story for this film isn’t especially complicated. The first alien invasion of Earth didn’t come from the stars. It came from a dimensional rift underneath the Pacific Ocean. Creatures emerged from that rift called “Kaiju.” The first one that emerged took massive amounts of artillery to bring down. So did the next, and the next. Thousands of people died from their attacks. Finally, the nations of the world came together and decided to put aside their differences to save their species. They created the Jaegers. Giant robotic warriors that could fight the Kaiju on their terms. To operate them, they had the minds of the soldiers link to the machine. But they very quickly found that this didn’t work with just one person. So, they ended up having to link two minds together, using them in tandem to operate these monolithic weapons. However, as the Kaiju get stronger and the Jaegers are being destroyed, the governments of the world decide to build a giant wall, to try and keep the Kaiju out. But the man in charge of the Jaeger program knows that without his warriors, the world is doomed. So, he goes rogue, continuing to fight to save the human race.
So, the first I will address is the special effects. They are gorgeous! The use of color in this movie, since most of these fights are at night, is just great. All of the colors really pop out at you and get you to pay attention. The Jaegers look awesome. Epic badass robots that are very reminiscent of mecha anime (which I refuse to believe wasn’t partially the inspiration for them). The damage that they incur looks awesome. The Kaiju also are pretty damn imposing. The subtle use of color on them pops out too, which is cool. While the pace of the fights between the Kaiju and the Jaegers can be a little fast, they are still awesome when they need to be.
Next up there are the characters. This film did a GREAT job with its characters. Idris Elba stole the show as the Stacker Pentecost, the commander of the military force behind the Jaegers. It’s been cool to see this actor really come into his own following his amazing role as Stringer Bell in The Wire. The other role that really stuck with me is Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori. She was both sympathetic and intense. She sold her tragic back-story through a well-done memory sequence. The relationship between her character and Elba’s was just awesome. The main character of the film, Raleigh Beckett, was also nicely done. But a small role that I have to call out for how cool it was to hear was Ellen McLain as the AI in the Jaegers. You may remember her from the Portal series. And this voice was EXACTLY the same as GLaDOS. Oh my god, that was so much fun to hear. For real, this was the star achievement of this film, and one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much. McLain brought her odd charm to that voice work and it was great.
The use of music wasn’t all that noticeable in the film, though it did have a score that worked well. The setting of this movie, primarily in Hong Kong, was awesome. They didn’t just have racial stereotypes in this place. They did their best to make it feel like the actual city, with a few more scratch marks.
Overall, this was a fantastic movie. With some of the more recently poor films that had Guillermo Del Toro’s name attached to them, it was nice to see him have a new film that hits all the right notes. It isn’t a profound film, but it is a fun one. Check it out, if you want to see a film that gets your blood pumping.
8 out of 10