This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Dustin Zick’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Guillermo del Toro is a maverick of film. Well, maybe was is a more appropriate term. His dark, Gothic, emotional approach to horror has helped him to sprout rather nimble wings in Hollywood, a feat when you reach back and look at difficulty and arguably inaccessibility of one of his earliest works, Cronos (1993). In the years since, del Toro has seen massive genre success with films like Hellboy and the critical darling, Pans Labyrinth. Which brings us to Pacific Rim.
Let me start by saying that I wanted to love Pacific Rim. Robots (Jaegers), monsters (Kaiju), robots fighting monsters - I don't know that there's a more apt combination of theatrical subject matter to call out to my inner 5-year-old. Pacific Rim did just that in promotional images, trailers, even in summary descriptions - this was going to be awesome. And it was. Well, parts of it at least.
Pacific Rim sails to new heights in terms of a visual feat. It's clear that del Toro and team put hundreds, upon hundreds of hours of love, sweat, blood and tears into creating strikingly realistic visual displays of destruction and epic battles that set a new standard of visual prowess in cinema today. Layering on top of that, del Toro created a richly detailed physical world that aptly displays the wear and tear of a decade of other-worldly large battles, and it's easy to get sucked into this visually rich world - that is, until you stop just looking and begin to listen.
Where Pacific Rim falters, and ultimately lost me, is in the dialog, the acting, the story...well, just about everything beyond the mere visuals. Again, I remind you, I wanted so desperately to love this film - I was willing, so willing, to view it as a campy romp into the action-figure battles I so often enacted as a child, but it had no interest in being camp. Instead, the seriousness and gravity of tone the film takes is attempted to be brought to believably with some of the most wooden acting and horrid dialog I've seen this side of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 viewing.
I don't know who's ultimately at fault here, co-writers del Toro and Travis Beachem, or sleep-walking actors like Charlie Hunnam. I'm inclined to put the blame on the writers who did have the benefit of working with the lies of Idris Elba and a woefully wasted Ron Perlman. Added to the outrageously forced one-liners ("Hold on, we better check it's pulse" *shoots gun* "No pulse"), and the cardboard acting, is a seemingly deep, deep pool of story that is barely scraped. From the necessity of mind-melding two pilots in "the drift" to pilot a Jaeger, to the science, implications, and existence of the Kaiju, why tease the story behind these things with no intention to reveal any of it?
Ultimately, Pacific Rim suffers from a disappointing lack of focus. The robots and monster battles are incredible. I mean, absolutely incredible, but lamentably serve to be the bread in a genre sandwich filled with wasted talent, poor acting, horrible dialog, and a story that either doesn't exist enough, or shouldn't exist at all.