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Jaeger VS Kaiju battle begins now!

It finally took over half of the summer, but we finally reached the big blockbuster that’s just as good as Iron Man 3, and probably better at times too.  Pacific Rim is massive, and it’s great and it’s fun.

The story is simple: kaiju have invaded Earth, and in response, humanity has built large machines called Jaegers, piloted by two people who are mind-melded together through a synchronization process called the Drift.  Humanity wins a lot of battles early on, but as the war wears on, the kaiju are getting bigger, and they’re adapting to the Jaegers.  The war has entered its twelfth year, with the Pacific rim countries building a giant wall to keep out the kaiju.  The Jaegers are no longer appealing, and the remaining four are moved to Hong Kong.

The characters are all pretty good, with enough background details and distinctive personalities to distinguish themselves from other characters.  Raleigh Becket is the retired pilot of Gipsy Danger, called back into service one last time.  Stacker Pentecost leads the Jaeger program and devises a plan to end the war.  Mako Mori is Pentecost’s assistant and a rookie when it comes to piloting.  Dr Newton Geizler and Dr Hermann Gottleib work with the program to study how the kaiju operate.  Hannibal Chau is a black market dealer of kaiju organs and body parts.  And Herc and Chuck Henson are the father-son team of Eureka Striker, the Australian Jaeger.  Each of them have arcs that resolve in one way or another.  Everyone playing them is great, especially Charlie Day, who, as Geizler, is not as obnoxious as you’d expect him to be.  Mako Mori, played by Rinko Kikuchi, is probably the strongest realized female character this summer, though it doesn’t get to be that way until a little late in the film because of how certain reveals were handled.  The story does focus on her a lot though, especially during her first Drift synchronization.  It’s here that certain things are learned, which again, could have been explained a bit sooner.

The action, of course, is the big draw, and it doesn’t disappoint.  There are really only three major Jaeger/kaiju sequences (Gipsy Danger vs Knifehead, the Hong Kong attack, and the final battle), but they’re all staged wonderfully.  The Hong Kong sequence is definitely the best in the whole film (and probably one of the best action sequences filmed this year[1]) and perfectly captures both how the Jaegers and kaiju move and fight, but also how any major action sequence should be done.  There is no lost sense of place or scale with the fighting, especially when it moves into Hong Kong itself and Gipsy Danger first takes on the kaiju Leatherback, and then Otachi.  There is a lot of destruction, but people do escape in shelters when an attack occurs (there are a couple times that I recall that there is talk of, or people actually going to, underground shelters to escape the attacks).  Compare that to other films this summer and the careless disregard for human life; it’s almost refreshing to see that some characters do give a damn.

I loved this film.  It isn’t dark and cynical and it doesn’t actively hate its audience.  It’s simple and straightforward, and not a convoluted mess of a film.  It knows the story it wants to tell and it does it well, and it has important things to say too.  But most importantly, it’s fun, and along with Iron Man 3, probably the best blockbuster film to show up this summer, and the most fun you’ll have too.  And I think that has been missing a lot this summer, the grand sense of fun that everyone should enjoy.

This is a movie that I will gladly see two or three times in theaters.  It’s that damn good.

[1] Iron Man 3 actually has two or three really good sequences that are also some of the year’s best.  All hail Shane Black.

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