It felt like it had been a year since I’ve seen a movie in the theater with my wife, and when I sat back and thought about it…it actually had. The last movie we saw together was Avengers, last summer. I’ve managed to catch a few movies during downtime on a few gigs here and there, but we really need to get out to the movies more often! This time we spent the big bucks for 3D IMAX. And for this movie, I can’t image it having the same impact without it. Here is a spoiler-free “TLDR” review: I thought it was as excellent large-scale monster movie with incredible special effects. It reminded me of all the moments as a kid playing with toys and imaging them battling and destroying the world in the process. For a more in-depth review, complete with a few spoilers read on:
First off, I’m a fan of writer/director Guillermo del Toro. I loved his earlier films Pan’s Labyrinth and the Hellboy movies. I even enjoyed his thriller Mama, which I just saw a few months ago. He comes into this movie with a lot of geek cred, and he delivers an epic Monster movie on a huge scale. First, the things I liked about it: the action, special effects and plot. This movie is first and foremost about giant man-made robots battling giant monsters from another dimension. Why are the monsters attacking Earth? Well, they are invaders looking to take over a planet, use up it’s resources and move on. In fact, they’ve already tried this once before, and they were almost successful (apparently the dinosaurs were really Kaiju that couldn’t survive on Earth’s atmosphere long enough). The plot is plausible, and I was able to buy-in, suspend my disbelief and I liked that it wasn’t overly complicated. Monsters are here to invade, and we can either roll over and die, or fight them with everything we have.
In this case, the “everything we have” is the entire globe coming together to build giant robots to fight the Kaiju. The robots are called Jaegers, and require a pair of pilots to operate. They are essentially giant killing machines built on the same large scale as the Kaiju. They explained that they took down the first Kaiju with fighter jets, tanks and other heavy military machinery, but as the attacks became more frequent and the Kaiju got bigger and more dangerous, they couldn’t keep up. Again, the plot is plausible, if not totally unrealistic. But hey, this isn’t a movie about realistic…it’s about realizing every kids imaginary fight with action figures. It’s giant monsters fighting giant robots! And that is just too cool.
If there were a few things I didn’t like about it, they had to do with story flow and acting. There were times when I felt like the story was short-changed to simply get to the monster battle faster. I don’t have a major problem with this, but the movie could have used a bit more setup and character development for the main protagonist Raleigh Becket. We get his backstory in the form of an opening prologue, and then we find out what he’s doing many years later, but within only a few minutes, the military is calling on him again to pilot another Jaeger. It happened so fast that it really didn’t even feel like Raleigh had been away from a Jaeger much at all. There were a few other moments like that where it felt like a scene was cut too short and jumped ahead a little fast. Secondly, there wasn’t really a “big name” actor to anchor and help sell this movie. Sure, Ron Perlman makes a cameo appearance as Hannibal Chau, the black market dealer of Kaiju body parts. And the scientists are played by recognizable actors Charlie Day and Burn Gorman. But, none of those actors are headlining the movie. The lead character was played by television actor Charlie Hunman, most known for his role on Sons of Anarchy. But this is his first headlining film, and his performance was a little uneven, especially when dealing with an American accent. If that role had gone instead to a well-established actor, it might have drawn more people to the movie. That said, I thought that Idris Elba, another British actor, stole the movie. His acting was superb and believable, and he saved a lot of scenes. He’s probably most recently recognizable as the Asgard Gatekeeper in the Thor movies.
While the music and score was pretty generic, I did like the main heroic theme and thought it worked well to drum up some excitement and energy. The rest of it was largely forgettable. And this is kind of surprising, since the composer Ramin Djawadi also did the music for HBO’s Game of Thrones and Iron Man. And I think the music for Game of Thrones is superb.
Despite those small gripes, I had a lot of fun at this movie. The theater had the sound cranked way up, and there were moments when I swear the sound was pumping out so many vibrations, that my hair was blowing in the proverbial wind. My chair was definitely rumbling and vibrating at the very least. I highly recommend seeing this in 3D IMAX as it makes an already large-scale experience even more immersive and grand. The special effects were incredibly realistic, and the cinematography was excellent…it was just a gorgeous movie to look at.
Metacritic gives this movie a positive 64/100 rating and Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 72% on their tomatometer. Users at IMDB enjoyed a little more, rating it 7.8/10. I agree with those ratings for the most part, although I probably enjoyed it a little more than the average person. I can’t wait for this one to come out on 3D Blu-ray so I can watch it on my new TV!