Having made his directorial mark with dark, thoughtful movies like Pan’s Labyrinth and sprawling, epic movies like The Hobbit, Guillermo del Toro has turned his sights onto exploring new territory. And with Pacific Rim, his ambition is plain: he seeks nothing less than to make The Silliest Movie Ever Filmed.
Pacific Rim starts with a simple premise: Giant robots fighting aliens. To that premise, it adds: Giant Robots! Fighting Aliens! And also, More Giant Robots! Fighting More Aliens! Plus, it’s chock-full of scenes of giant robots. Fighting aliens.
In this movie, we see a mysterious underwater crevasse, glowing a hellish red and surrounded by special effects, unleash a gigantic alien. And I don’t mean T. Rex gigantic, oh, no. Or even King Kong gigantic. This is a gigantic alien. The size of the bigness of it would make Godzilla say “wow, that’s a gigantic alien!”
The gigantic alien wades ashore and stomps around San Francisco for a while. It smashes the Golden Gate Bridge, sending cars flying everywhere. It stomps along down Folsom Street, sending more cars flying. The army is mobilized. Tanks get stepped on. F-35 Lightning fighters shoot at it with machine guns, which is odd considering their more typical armament includes Brimstone armor-piercing antitank missiles, which one might think (were one of a clear frame of mind and not screaming “OMG it’s a gigantic alien!”) would be a more effective weapon against gigantic aliens. More cars go flying. The monster is defeated. Another monster appears. More fighter aircraft shoot at it with ineffective weapons–a common theme in this movie, as we shall see–and eventually, a plan is made to fight the monsters using gigantic hundred-foot-tall robots shaped like people, because the basic human body plan is so effective at underwater hand-to-hand combat. Pilots are placed in the giant robots and move them around by thrashing and stomping, because it takes about 750 milliseconds for a person to move a limb, and it was felt that simply controlling the giant robots by thought alone rather than by motion might make the giant robots too fast and too responsive, depriving the alien monsters of a fair chance. Having one pilot per robot overloaded the pilot’s brain because of plot, so the solution was to put two pilots into each robot, thereby adding to the response time and generally making the giant robots that much less efficient.
And that’s before the opening credits roll.
The rest of the movie goes something like this: