Domestically, 'Pacific Rim' was amongst this summer's major flops. With a production budget of $190 million, Guillermo del Toro's grand scale monster movie barely managed to crack the $100 million mark stateside. I'll admit it – based solely on the trailers, I had absolutely no desire to see 'Pacific Rim.' But I wasn't alone. As proven by the box office numbers, the majority of the moviegoers in North America felt the same way. It wasn't until I attended a local press screening that my opinion of the film changed. I had to eat my words. Considering the immense amount of fun that I had with it, I was happy to do so. And I wasn't the only one. By the time opening day came around, 'Pacific Rim' sat with a healthy Rotten Tomatoes rating in the low 70s – but that didn't matter. The film's negative perception was widespread and the movie became critic-proof in a negative way. Lucky for del Toro, Warner Brothers, Legendary Pictures, and us – the fans of the film – the international draw was huge. With a worldwide gross of $407.5 million, the director and studios could feel successful and we could get a sequel.
'Pacific Rim' is an all-out fun summer blockbuster. With fantastic special effects, tons of action, and a wildly loud sound effects, it's everything that a blockbuster should be. Watching it the first time, I couldn't help but think that this is the movie that 'Transformers' should have been.
The film starts off with a voiced-over recap of what happened across the globe between 2013 and 2020. In 2013, an inter-dimensional rift opened in the floor of the Pacific Ocean. A monster measuring more than 200 feet passed through. It took six days for military forces to bring it down, but it had already destroyed much of San Francisco and two neighboring cities. Six months later, the same thing happened again. And again. These monsters became known as Kaiju, the Japanese word for "monster." Knowing that the Kaiju would keep coming, nations of the world banded together to create monsters of their own – robotic machines of the same size known as Jaeger. These machines were so powerful that they had to be piloted by two mentally-linked humans.
After the opening recap, we're introduced to two of these pilots – brothers Yancy and Raleigh Becket. We see how they get into their Jaeger, how the mental connection (known as "the drift") functions and how they co-pilot their robot. Of course, we also see them fight a Kaiju. This scene shows us a complete contrast from the Jaeger fights that we're shown in the recap. Something has changed. The Jaegers could quickly take down the Kaiju before, but Yancy and Raleigh get their asses kicked. In the process, Yancy is killed and Raleigh miraculously survives. After 17 minutes, we finally get to the film's opening title sequence.
After the titles, we jump another five years into the future. The Kaiju have continued to adapt and the Jaeger program hasn't been able to keep up. The Jaeger program is being ended to focus strengths on building a massive wall surrounding the Pacific Rim. Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) has gone off the grid. He's still traumatized by the death of Yancy. Because the two were "in the drift" when Yancy was killed, Raleigh experienced Yancy's death. The leader of the dying Jaeger program (Idris Elba) is able to sway Raleigh into one last hoorah mission to close the Kaiju rift in the ocean floor.
'Pacific Rim' quickly becomes a large-scale ensemble flick not unlike 'Independence Day.' We meet the Jaeger program's coordinator (Rinko Kikuchi), two Kaiju scientists (Charlie Day and Burn Gorman), a local black market vendor (Ron Perlman), a Jaeger techie (Clifton Collins Jr.) and seven other Jaeger pilots. After the 17-minute intro, the first hour or the film is devoted to introducing and establishing many of these characters. The second hour is when all the loud, explosive, and visually-pleasing action takes place. The characterization and action ultimately balance out to make a story worth investing in. Because you care about the characters, the dangerous action scenarios that they're placed in carry gravity.
I'm not a del Toro groupie. I also don't believe that 'Pacific Rim' is the best movie of the year. But I do believe that del Toro made a fantastic monster film and that 'Pacific Rim' is one of the year's most entertaining movies.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Warner Bros. has given 'Pacific Rim' three different home video releases – all of which carry the same set of goodies. The 3D Blu-ray pack contains a 3D Blu-ray of the film, a 2D Blu-ray with the film and several special features, a second 2D Blu-ray with even more special features, and a DVD of the film. Also included is a code for redeeming an HD Ultraviolet copy of the film. All four discs are housed in an Elite keepcase that stacks two discs on one side of the case and two more on the other. A sweet lenticular slipcase is included that features a nice three dimensional image of three Jaegers walking through the ocean (one in the foreground) and a fourth being choppered in. After a brief WB vanity reel, nothing plays before the main menu on the 3D disc. Finally, Warner Bros. has moved away from the generic and ugly main menu. The menu features a static image of a Jaeger set to music. The 2D disc carries the same menu design, but you must wade through videos to get to it – the same WB vanity reel, adverts for the 'Pacific Rim' prequel graphic novel and Ultraviolet, a commentary disclaimer and a trailer for the upcoming WB release 'Seventh Son.'
Get ready to add a new demo disc to your system. No matter whether you're watching the 3D or the 2D version, both of the 'Pacific Rim' Blu-rays are absolutely flawless. The opening 17 minutes make for prime demo content.
I screened the IMAX 3D version of the film theatrically and found it to be too dark. With the vast majority of the movie taking place during the dead of night, the consuming darkness became the downfall of the theatrical experience; however, the 3D Blu-ray experience seems to have brightened the dark images to a much nicer point. I didn't expect the nighttime exterior settings to look as good as they did. Suddenly, a lot more details can be seen - Kaiju skin texture, soaring destruction debris, even previously invisible set pieces. Even though the darkened lenses, the fine details shine through and make the 3D video quality perfectly match the 2D quality.
The film's design carries strong characteristics for defining the grand perspective of the Kaijus and Jaegers. One aspect from which the 3D Blu-ray is better than the 2D Blu-ray is in the way that the image's depth offers even more emphasis on the grandeur. The subtle effects of slowly falling ash, as well as the not-so-subtle effect of constantly raining environments, show the strength of the film's 3D quality. My favorite of the 3D enhancers is within the Shatterdome setting. If you focus on the wet flooring, you'll see that even the reflections in the water are perfectly three dimensional.
Although the settings and set pieces are damaged, scuffed and flawed, the video quality of 'Pacific Rim' is not. It's perfectly clear, allowing only the intentional set flaws to show. The video allows you to see the great visual effects and sets as they're meant to be seen. This film carries a great level of production value and the video quality really shows it.
Whether you have a 5.1 set-up or a 7.1 set-up, 'Pacific Rim' offers lossless tracks that are equally as demo-worthy as the video quality. I'm absolutely serious when I say that this is my new demo disc. The qualities are all around perfect. For this review, I watched many segments with the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix and watched the entire film with the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix.
Being a big loud blockbuster, this full and constantly dynamic mix is powerful. Talk about perfectly organized chaos! During the fight sequences, the metallic fists crashing into rain-soaked Kaiju skin literally packs a punch. As Jaeger's are dented, destroyed and torn apart, soaring debris can be heard passing through the theater space. The LFE of machines and monsters colliding booms through these sequences just as strong as the thunder and crashing waves. The effects are beefed up and bassy.
Imaging effects are aplenty - be it jets cruising through the air while performing missile attacks on the Kaiju or Jaeger arms delivering rocket-propelled blows to Kaiju heads. There's a lot more to this mix than crushing and clanking, although that's a major part of it. During the character-building post-opening first hour, there are loads of subtle environmental effects that bring the settings to life.
I can't think of an aspect of the audio mix that's lacking.
Please note that I've labeled the 3D Blu-ray as "Disc 1," the 2D main feature Blu-ray as "Disc 2," the 2D special feature Blu-ray as "Disc 3" and the DVD as "Disc 4."
Thank you, Guillermo del Toro and Warner Brothers for delivering my latest and greatest demo disc. I'll proudly play the opening 17 minutes of 'Pacific Rim' to show off my system. I was originally a disbeliever of del Toro's ability to create a worthwhile monster/robot punch 'em up blockbuster, but I had to eat crow when it proved to be as all-out entertaining as it is. The story is solid fun and it's told through fantastic set pieces and top-notch CG effects. To our advantage, the perfect video and audio qualities show off the big-budget production value. The 3D video does a fantastic job showing off the grand scale and perspective of the battling monsters and robots. And the loud and immersive audio places you in the center of the action. Loads of special features are included, more than enough to keep the film's fans happy. While 'Pacific Rim' may not be Oscar bait – perhaps aside from VFX and sound mixing – it definitely deserves to be on the shelves of anyone looking to show off their sweet home theaters. Highly recommended.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.