Andy Bockelman: ‘Pacific Rim’ a hard-hitting, sci-fi creature feature |

Andy Bockelman: ‘Pacific Rim’ a hard-hitting, sci-fi creature feature

Jaeger pilots Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) prepare for battle in "Pacific Rim." The movie is about a near future where giant robots are used to fight an onslaught of monsters rising from the Pacific Ocean.

— Most people have childhood issues of some sort that affect them well into their adult lives. Few have a traumatic past that involves being pursued through the streets of an Asian metropolis by a ginormous crab, but that's what makes the heroes of "Pacific Rim" unique.

For 12 years, the world has been under attack. Not by warring nations or distant planets, but from within, deep within. Giant monsters known as Kaijus have begun rising from a crack in the ocean floor and tearing apart the nearby landmasses without mercy.

The solution?

Equally huge machines called Jaegers piloted by humans to combat these behemoths before they can do too much damage.

What started as a temporary preventative measure has become a nonstop battle between man and beast as the number of Kaijus continues to increase with no end in sight. The time has come for the Jaeger program to take out the threat once and for all.

Under the command of Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), one-time Jaeger pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) is dragged back into action to employ his skill set in helping to save the world. Finding him a new partner to match his abilities isn't easy, and even once he gains a suitable copilot (Rinko Kikuchi), the danger level might be too great for them to reclaim our world from these monsters.

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Hunnam's scruffy features and cocky grin make Becket's devil-may-care attitude more endearing than if he were just some reckless jerk, instead putting on a brave face when getting back into the line of work that killed his brother (Diego Klattenhoff) and devastated him emotionally. Clearly this is exactly the kind of guy you'd want controlling a nuclear reactor with legs, a fact touched upon by his Maverick/Iceman rivalry with a new hotshot (Robert Kazinsky).

Kikuchi provides the hopeful yang to Hunnam's moody yin as Becket's new associate, Mako Mori, whose smooth hand-to-hand fighting abilities are put to the test when she's strapped into the cockpit of the Jaeger, suddenly on eye level with the terrors she's seen only through simulation.

Elba provides bravado galore as the military man who oversees the duo, never sure if his wager on the two of them will pay off. Still, you wouldn't know he had any doubts when he launches into speeches that would do Henry V or William Wallace proud.

Burn Gorman and Charlie Day provide some laughs amid the chaos as bickering scientists with drastically different approaches, the former a strict numbers man and the latter an unpredictable biologist unafraid of getting in up to his elbows trying to tap into the Kaiju consciousness. Be careful what you wish for, doc.

The not-too-far-off technology that lets Jaeger pilots mind-link to their machinery and to each other is just one of the many visual features that makes for a fully immersive three-dimensional experience in this riveting adventure directed and co-written by Guillermo del Toro, one of Hollywood's best when it comes to creating dynamic, ooey-gooey monster movies. The comparisons to classic Kaijus like Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and the rest of that gang are there, but del Toro does more than just give us reruns in this summer of sequels, remakes and other examples of creative constipation.

He pays tribute while adding something of his own — showing Michael Bay who's boss when it comes to mechano-men who can block out the sun — and still manages to keep the human drama as much of a draw as when the big boys come out to play. The subtext of a planet where all the countries of the world can put aside their differences to fight a common enemy is a nice if fleeting thought, while the stopgap solution of building enormous massive walls along the Pacific coasts shows the governments of 2025 are no smarter than now.

And, once Hellboy himself, Ron Perlman, makes an appearance as a black market dealer in Kaiju anatomy, you know things will be getting all the more exciting faster than you can start singing "There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea."

A joy to watch on the big screen, "Pacific Rim" is one of the better releases of a lackluster season, packing all the punch of a Jaeger right cross. Trust me, you haven't seen a giant robot smack a towering abomination across the chops with a cargo ship until you've seen it wearing 3-D specs.

Andy Bockelman is a Craig resident, freelance writer and Denver Film Critics Society accredited film fanatic who occasionally reviews movies playing in Northwest Colorado.

If you go

“Pacific Rim,” rated PG-13

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars

Running time: 132 minutes

Starring: Starring Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Idris Elba and Charlie Day.

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas and Craig’s West Theatre.