Pacific Rim is terrific fun. It's an intensely visual, broad and goofy sugar-rush of a movie.
At last, a blockbuster to get truly excited about.
It has an innocent sense of glee at the sheer spectacle of giant robots wrestling with giant monsters. It's been a long time since I've seen a film at the cinema with such a sense of unbridled fun and love for the possibilities of big-screen adventure.
Pacific Rim has a much broader tone than I expected. There are goofy sight gags in the middle of fight scenes, and characters like the two wacky scientists are drawn with a very broad brush. This took a few moments of adjustment. I think I have been so browbeaten by the forbidding tone of many mainstream movies that it took me 20 minutes to adjust to a movie brimful of joy and adventure.
Forbidding doom has become the lingua franca of the blockbuster, but here is a movie that just loves the fun of adventure and giant robots lifting fantastical creatures into the air and tossing them into the sea. It is an unabashed, fun blockbuster with no pretensions of grandeur. It has more in common with Independence Day than Dark Knight.
It is big, broad, bright and a thrill to behold - every shot pops off the screen with sparks and neon colours and saturated detail. The robots have been knocked about during nearly a decade of conflict, giving Pacific Rim's universe a pre-loved feel. Every shot is so crammed with detail and visual finesse that it is impossible to catch it all in one go. It sometimes felt as though there was too much information to fit through my eye.
It also has a perfect understanding of how to portray the enormous scale of the robots and monsters. At one point, a robot uses an oil tanker as an improvised baseball bat against his lizardy foe. It was one of those cheer-out-loud moments. An alternative title for this film could be Tiny Huge Smash Smash Smash.
But Pacific Rim is one of those films that has grown in my mind since viewing. I left the cinema a few days ago with a smile on my face, but I wasn't raving. I mulled the film over in the next few days and realised that certain vivid images were not budging from my mind. I also realised I wanted to see it again. Quite rare in this modern age of disposable pop blockbusters, where the film is forgotten before you even bin the empty popcorn tub.
Pacific Rim, unlike many other blockbusters (I'm looking at you, Michael Bay), is also chockful of humanity. Every character has a simple arc and there are whole sequences where the lives of the lead characters who pilot the giant robots are explored. Again, it is all pretty broad, but it is refreshing to see so much humanity getting screen time in a slamming blockbuster.
In this great interview, director Guillermo del Toro explained his approach:
"When I tackled the movie, I was thinking of the adventure movies I saw as a kid, a throwback to an adventure movie where human virtue is possible, where even the bad guy among the human characters can convert into a guy that you learn to appreciate. Each of those characters brings a little bit of what's great about being human: leadership, intelligence, sacrifice."
But Pacific Rim has not been very well received at the US box office. In fact, Adam Sandler sequel Grown Ups 2 made more money than Pacific Rim in its opening weekend. I think people may have been put off the film because they saw the posters and the trailer and thought it was more Transformers nonsense. Michael Bay's cynical, loud and hollow trilogy has spoilt the audience for this kind of fantasy adventure movie. They've been burnt three times by big robot movies and they are not going to be burnt again.
So, my hope is that as people see Pacific Rim, they will tell their friends how great it is and Pacific Rim will have box office legs as the good word of mouth spreads. That is my hope. My fear is that popular tastes have shifted away from this kind of bright and neon blockbuster toward the deadly serious and apocalyptic. I hope my fears are unfounded.
Either way, in 20 years' time, we won't be talking about Grown Ups 2, we will be talking about Pacific Rim.
What did you think of Pacific Rim? Did you like it? Am I going to be accused of being a Downton Abbey fan again for liking a movie about giant robots? Post below.