The best thing about this massive blockbuster is the way it updates the classic Japanese monster movie to the 21st century, with a first-rate cast and staggeringly good effects. Sadly, the script isn't up to scratch, throwing in enjoyable comedy and corny melodrama while maintaining such a formulaic structure that there isn't a single moment of actual suspense. We never doubt for a second how all of this is going to end or who will survive.
It all begins in the present day, as gigantic creatures called kaiju appear through a temporal rift in the Pacific Ocean floor near Hong Kong. They start attacking cities (inexplicably starting with San Francisco), and humanity takes years to fight back, building massive robots called jaegers that are piloted by two-man teams. Over even more years of fighting, the monsters learn how to stop the jaegers, so military leader Pentecost (Elba) assembles his best jaeger pilots in Hong Kong, including the haunted Becket (Hunnam) and father-son Aussie duo Herc and Chuck (Martini and Kazinsky). And as they plan their assault, the scientist Newt (Day) makes a startling discovery about the kaiju.
Most of the film is played as a massively over-serious action movie in which manly, muscly heroes set out to save the planet. The relational melodrama always feels like a distraction, including Pentecost's assistant (Kikuchi), who wants to be a pilot and carries a torch for Becket. There's also a dose of bromance as Newt tries to loosen up his so-British sidekick (Gorman). And to help spice things up, we also get some comic relief from Perlman, who is hilarious as a swaggering black-market dealer. None of these characters is very complicated, but the gifted actors all do what they can with the roles.
Meanwhile, Del Toro sets his target firmly on 10-year-old boys by making everything look almost painfully shiny and cool. The action set-pieces are played out on a huge scale that may not always make logical sense, but they look amazing even in dark, watery settings, like especially detailed anime. Even so, watching gigantic robots battle massive alien creatures isn't actually that exciting, and everything is so over-important that it's faintly absurd. And then there's the fact that the script avoids tongue-in-cheek fun for corny familial sentimentality. But this never has any traction because the characters are too shallow and the plot's just far too predictable.
Genre: Sci fi/Fantasy
Run time: 132 mins
In Theaters: Friday 12th July 2013
Box Office USA: $101.8M
Box Office Worldwide: $407.6M
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production compaines: Warner Bros., Legendary Pictures, Disney Double Dare You (DDY), Indochina Productions
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Fresh: 181 Rotten: 72
IMDB: 7.0 / 10
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Producer: Jon Jashni, Mary Parent, Thomas Tull
Screenwriter: Travis Beacham, Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost, Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket, Charlie Day as Dr. Newton Geiszler, Ron Perlman as Hannibal Chau, Burn Gorman as Gottlieb, Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori, Max Martini as Herc Hansen, Robert Maillet as Aleksis Kaidanovsky, Robert Kazinsky as Chuck Hansen, Larry Joe Campbell as Tommy T, Brad William Henke as Miles, Clifton Collins, Jr. as Ops Tendo Choi, Diego Klattenhoff as Yancy Becket, Santiago Segura as Wizened Man
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