Matthew Cheney’s review:
A very different experience at home than in the theatre, despite a pretty big TV and good speakers — it's a film that aspires to, and usually achieves, hugeness, and as such the bigger the screen, the better. (I'm sorry not to have seen it on IMAX, and I rarely say that.)
But in the smaller, more intimate space of the living room, it revealed new wonders. The story and characters remain as predictable/familiar as before, but there's a certain comfort in that, a freedom: yes, we know the moves, and so we can look elsewhere, at other things. Certainly, it would be a Greater Work Of Art if it were less beholden to its genre, but it's not so much beholden as it is reveling in its genre — a movie ecstatically embodying all it loves. The passion transfers: I am not particularly interested (or not interested) in the genre. What grabbed me, held me, filled me with joy was the energy, the intensity, the rich visual world. This is a movie that loves being just what it is, and that, I found, was contagious.
Coming back to it now, I was most enraptured by the colors. The care and purpose with which the film is colored reminds me of so many great Technicolor films past, back when directors and designers were besotted with the new possibilities. Del Toro and his designers have fallen in love with color again, and shared that love with us.
There is, of course, too, the action, which is intense and powerful. What I noticed when I saw the film in the theatre, I noticed again at home: the sense of size and weight is so carefully constructed. And that's part of what is essential to the film's success, because fundamentally it's a movie about big things beating each other up. Scale matters. Weight and gravity matter. One of the most indelible images for me is of the jaeger dragging a ship behind it as it stomps through Hong Kong, ready to use the ship as a bludgeon. It's a sublime shot.
And though the characters and situations are, indeed, predictable and formulaic, the film doesn't have the individualistic hero ethos of so many American movies — the lone warrior who succeeds against all odds and proves that individual pluck is what it takes. This is a movie about working together, a movie about community. And for that, I could forgive it 100 clichés.