Guillermo Del Toro, the director behind acclaimed fantasy drama Pan’s Labyrinth, returns with epic sci-fi adventure Pacific Rim.
A lengthy prologue works to Pacific Rim’s advantage giving us plenty of time to settle in to Del Toro’s imagined future where giant beasts, known as Kaiju, emerge from the Pacific ocean and lay waste to Earth’s shores.
The first attack is delivered in mysterious Godzilla style - a random siege by an unknown monster with a classic shot of a foot here, an arm there, and backed by a soundtrack of primeval animal bellows.
The widespread relief following this attack is short lived as Kaijus begin to emerge from the ocean at regular intervals and so the Jaeger programme - an army of giant robots operated by internal pilots - is born.
Pacific Rim’s prologue is deliberate and so lengthy - introducing us to key characters from reckless pilot, Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam), to determined commander, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) - that it delivers gripping detail without feeling at all tacked on.
Five years later, the Jaeger programme has fallen into disrepute and Pentecost is struggling to hold the resistance together in the face of an imminent Kaiju invasion.
Pacific Rim’s tagline, ‘go big or go extinct’, could be a statement about the modern action blockbuster. From Michael Bay’s Transformers to Peter Berg’s Battleship, rapid, detailed and large scale visuals and bass thumping sound-effects are the name of the game.
And - although Pacific Rim does at times fall victim to CGI overload, giving us visuals that are, perversely, quite difficult to see - Pacific Rim really does go big.
The creation of giant, human powered robots is inescapably cool and gives Pacific Rim an unrivalled sense of scale.
Despite much of the action involving the predictable showpiece of cityscape destruction, it is also refreshingly imaginative as a Jaeger demolishes a Kaiju wielding a freight ship like a baseball bat, dragging its unexpected weapon along a Hong Kong street like a sulky but determined child. And then there are unusual battle locations too, as a Jaeger takes on multiple Kaiju in the middle of a roaring sea.
Instead it is Pacific Rim’s sub-plots and shaky characterisation that begin to unravel this summer blockbuster.
The burgeoning romance between co-pilots Becket and Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) plays out predictably, while Becket’s rivalry with fellow pilot Chuck Hanson (Robert Kazinsky) is disposable. There is little of interest in lead character Becket and the shy, respectful but conflicted Mako Mori remains the most dynamic and unexpected of the bunch.
The screenplay from Del Toro and Travis Beacham (Clash Of The Titans) is not afraid to have a laugh and plays with action comedy - look out for a great gag with a familiar desk toy - and introduces cliche scientist guys who would seem at home in a sci-fi spoof.
Yet this sporadically light hearted approach highlights the uncomfortable moments when Pacific Rim takes itself too seriously.
Pacific Rim has its fair share of holes and suspension of belief is compulsory, not least because these giant robots ultimately demolish the cities they are designed to protect.
Its science too remains unconvincing with the neural handshake - a merging of minds that allows co-pilots to unite mentally - being the most preposterous. Yet Pacific Rim delivers a cool concept and epic sense of scale, providing plenty of distraction from its flimsy characters and cliche sub-plots.
See it for its monumental robot-monster battles and you’re unlikely to be disappointed.
Running Time: 131 minutes