Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim is an impressive tribute to the monster movies of Ray Harryhausen and Ishiro Honda, who received a dedication in the credits because their work has been a source of entertainment and inspiration to many over the years. Fuelled by the vivid imaginations of del Toro and his crew, they created a world of such great spectacle and wonder that fans of the genre will be able to overlook the shortcomings of the story and human characters.
Written by del Toro and Travis Beacham, Pacific Rim tells the story of the invasion of Earth by interdimensional monsters called "Kaijus" that appear through a portal in the Pacific Ocean. To fight against their wanton destruction, scientists developed giant humanoid-shaped machines called "Jaegers" that are piloted by two individuals inside whose minds become linked through a process called "Drifting". But what mankind thought was a war turned out to be just the first battles as the Kaijus continue coming at an increasing frequency. The world governments make the odd decision to focus on building walls along the coastlines and give up on the Jaegers.
Hong Kong is where the final walls are being erected and the Jaegers are sent as protection under the command of Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba). He has battled the Kaijus for years and the effort has taken a toll. To assist him, Stacker recruits Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam), a former pilot whose last mission resulted in the loss of his brother/Jaeger partner. While willing to return, he struggles to form a mental bond with a new partner, which doesn't bode well when inside the Jaeger. Realizing they must be stopped at the source, Stacker determines a nuclear bomb could do the trick, but there's no way to know for certain until they try.
While the universe del Toro has created has some fascinating components, the least interesting are the humans, most of which are bland and generic. Kids will surely want to play with toys that allow them to stage battles between the Jaegers and Kaijus, but no one is going to aspire to be Becket. The character has little personality and his dialogue isn't memorable. Other than the loss of his brother, very little defines him and I don't imagine fans demanding he appear in any sequel. Stacker has a good line about canceling the Apocalypse, but his ailing soldier trying to hold it together for one last stand has been seen before, as has Charlie Day's Dr. Newton Geiszler, a wacky scientist who doesn't seem that much different from his character on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Also offering comic relief is Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman), a dealer who traffics in Kaiju organs. Looking nothing like his name, he seems to have a great backstory but it isn’t provided. Luckily, the action sequences are so impressively executed they provide enough entertainment to pull the viewer through.
The Blu-ray delivers an outstanding high definition presentation that is some instances surpassed the IMAX 3D screening. The 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer, presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, is stunning. The image is brighter than IMAX 3D, delivering more vibrant colors and sharper details. Fights occurring during the night and underwater that had offered diminished visibility appear much clearer. The visual effects seamlessly blended with real objects. The only knock against the image is del Toro's decision to overuse faux lens flair and water spots.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 offers an intense, overwhelming sensory experience that in combination with the video makes it a demo-worthy disc. During the opening prologue, story, the audio of effects and score are intense. When the brothers first suit up the Jaeger, the bass is relentless and will rattle the system at high levels. Dialogue is clear, but it’s the effects that impress as viewers are immersed in the ambiance of the world, from the soft winds of Alaskan blowing through to panicked Hong Kong crowds running for safety.
For those who want to explore the creation of Pacific Rim, there's a plethora of extras, all in HD, contained on two Blu-ray discs. Accompanying the film is del Toro's commentary track, which is very informative and entertaining. His passion for the project appears endless. Focus Points (62 min) is a 13-part feature, available to view separately or all together that covers some of the same ground while looking at different aspects involved in creating the film.
Disc 2 contains The Director's Notebook, a gallery presenting concept art and notes as well as video pods. Drift Space (5 min) looks at the four sequences that occur there and the events shown within. The Digital Artistry of Pacific Rim (17 min) highlights the VFX team, who are well deserving of recognition. The Shatterdome is “an archive of the key design art” that includes video and stills of the animatics and concepts. There are four brief Deleted Scenes (4 min), which has a Play-All option, and a Blooper Reel (4 min).
Whether the worldwide gross of over $400 million is enough to earn the film a sequel, Pacific Rim is a refreshing original adventure that honors a genre. Fans will likely want to revisit it, although the simplicity of the characters and story may lead them to just skip to the action sequences. I anticipate the brilliant execution of the Blu-ray's a/v specs will lead to Pacific Rim being mentioned on many year-end lists. It's already got a spot on mine.
Pacific Rim is available on 3D Blu-ray Combo Pack, 2D Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, and HD Digital Download.