Movie review: “Pacific Rim” a robot-smashing success

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From the July 11, 2013 edition

You won’t find a movie this summer that comes more directly from the id of a 10-year-old boy than “Pacific Rim.” In fact, you might not find one period. I mean, GIANT ROBOTS VS. GIANT MONSTERS?! C’mon.

Fear not, fans of giant robots and/or giant aliens. This movie does not disappoint in that regard. I mean, like, whoa.

The spectacle alone is worth the price of admission, and director Guillermo del Toro is smart enough to deliver plenty of dumb summer fun even as the blockbuster clichés reach critical mass.

An opening narrative gets us quickly up to speed on the whole robots-monsters front. An interdimensional rift at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean brought giant alien monsters to our planet. After attacks by the creatures (known as kaiju) decimate a few major coastal cities, the nations of the world unite to construct a defense. That defense is giant robots. Because duh.

Human pilots of the robots (known as “Jaegers,” because sure, why not?) become rockstars. A devil-may-care makes-his-own-rules hotshot pilot (Charlie Hunnam of TV’s “Sons of Anarchy”) and his wet-behind-the-ears trainee co-pilot (Rinko Kikuchi) may prove to be humanity’s last hope.

Or, if you’d like the Cliff’s Notes version of the plot, ROBOTS SMASH!

Hats off to del Toro and company for setting out to make a huge summer movie that isn’t a sequel/prequel/remake/adaptation. This approach really freed them up to lift good stuff from a wide swath of action flicks.

The obvious starting point is Godzilla blended with Japanese giant robot anime. (Got a nerd boner yet?) There’s also an obvious vein of “Top Gun” running through here, and more than a little “Independence Day.”

The top-notch visual effects make the hugeness of things simply jaw-dropping. (I don’t always recommend upgrading to expensive tickets, but 3D IMAX is the way to go here.)

Sometimes the visual chaos of the massively destructive battles — this tops “Man of Steel” in the rubble race — gives us nothing to focus on. The battle scenes, while the definition of epic, have a tendency to run together.

The script has fun with the over-the-topness of it all, right down to ridiculous character names. Idris Elba plays a hard-nosed commander named Stacker Pentecost. Charlie Day plays a nerdy scientist named Dr. Newton Geiszler.

“Pacific Rim” could stand to be about 20 minutes shorter, and it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it delivers what you expect and then some.