Do Critics Have the Wrong Idea About ‘Pacific Rim’ Director Guillermo del Toro?

Guillermo Del Toro

REARVIEW: Variety critics take a second look at the weekend's most talked-about movie

I wanted to love “Pacific Rim” more. I suspect that’s a feeling most film critics had. After all, Guillermo del Toro is one of the good guys, a fantasy director with a poet’s soul. And the reviews were downright weird as a result: The critics tied themselves into knots attempting to give del Toro the benefit of the doubt, trying to find those qualities they respect about the director’s vision in a genre they’ve never much cared for.

“In a sense, ‘Pacific Rim’ winds up being not enough of a Guillermo del Toro movie,” opined Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Nashawaty, voicing the sentiment just beneath the surface of so many other reviews. But what is a Guillermo del Toro movie?

It’s downright strange to consider how many of the critics referenced the director’s lower-budget, foreign-language Spanish Civil War allegories “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “The Devil’s Backbone” in their reviews, as if those were the most representative examples of del Toro’s oeuvre, when “Pacific Rim” actually has so much more in common with del Toro’s early, Weinstein-compromised monster movie “Mimic.”

The explanation is simple: The highbrow set doesn’t especially like movies like “Mimic” — or “Godzilla,” for that matter. Nashawaty’s review went on to complain, “It’s more like a mash-up of ‘Real Steel’ and the ‘Transformers’ pictures,” as if del Toro wouldn’t agree, or wouldn’t take that as a compliment, the same way certain fanboys found a ringing endorsement of the film they wanted “Pacific Rim” to be when Variety’s Justin Chang slammed it as “an extended 3D episode of ‘Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ on very expensive acid.”

In her conflicted Washington Post review, Ann Hornaday sniped, “‘Pan’s Labyrinth,’ it most decidedly ain’t,” putting down del Toro’s “vortex of garish visual effects and risibly cartoonish action.” Doesn’t she realize that nearly the entire fighting-robot tradition comes from cartoons? That “Hellboy,” “The Hobbit” (which he developed with Peter Jackson intending to direct) and the aborted H.P. Lovecraft adaptation “At the Mountains of Madness” are as much passion projects for the director as “Cronos” was?

I don’t like all del Toro movies. But I never expected “Pacific Rim” to resemble the three Spanish-language pics of his that I adore. This is a massive-scale mecha-vs.-kaiju showdown, guys. Del Toro has long since established his film-geek bona fides, and there’s no one I trust more to tackle a  guilty-pleasure genre I outgrew somewhere around age 13. That’s when the rubber-suit, clunky-puppet effects of a movie like 1968’s “Destroy All Monsters” stopped being fun. And “Pacific Rim” promised the opportunity to see it done right, in a way adults could also appreciate.

For whatever reason, del Toro doesn’t seem to have faith in his monsters. They attack almost exclusively at night, preferably in the pouring rain. Del Toro put all this attention into designing the creatures (the evidence of which you can see in my Variety colleague David S. Cohen’s making-of book), but then decided to hide them amid quick cutting and camera tricks in the finished film.

I can’t remember a single human character from the Godzilla movies of my youth, but “Pacific Rim” spends a respectable amount of time establishing memorable personalities for the Jaeger pilots, scientists and supporting cast — an impressively diverse crowd who must band together to “cancel the apocalypse” (instead of relying on a lone white hero to save the day, the way American movies typically do).

Rather than focusing on the first giant monster to cross the inter-dimensional portal, the film leaps forward a decade or so into mankind’s standoff against the kaiju to depict the big-daddy battle they hope will end the war. Pause just a moment to consider the ambition here: Whereas most summer movies tentatively attempt to establish a franchise, del Toro and co-writer Travis Beacham dive into a full-blown sci-fi scenario determined to tell the best possible story the first time around. As HitFix’s Drew McWeeny pointed out, “Pacific Rim” feels more like the third film in a trilogy than the opening salvo. In that respect, it’s all the Guillermo del Toro movie you could want.

Tell us what you thought: Did the fact “Pacific Rim” was a del Toro movie matter to you, and if so, how did it size up to your expectations?

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  1. Word says:

    The only thing I will ask to the critics and audiences who watched, if you truly watched….If you never grew up watching the mecha-anime of the 70s and 80s. Or never heard or cheered for Voltez V, Daiamos, Patlabor, Macross/Robotech, Gundam, and the many variations of the genre…Then do your research! Pacific Rim was a great original screenplay in tribute of a cartoon genre that many boys and girls around the world grew up with as a child. The US may have only had a sampling during those decades, however kids in South America, Spain, and ALL of Asia, who are now the paying cinema adults of today know and appreciate what director Del Torro has done for us. He made us kids again! Thats the power of this film. It made us kids again! Plain and simple! We weren’t asking for intellectual hoopla, or Oscar winning performances. Del Torro, made an entertaining film that took us away from the norm and gave us a childhood fantasy that was also visual appealing, with characters that people from around the world could see themselves as, that took the chance that “hey” there are other stories besides the US regions POV (ie- Remember that brief scene in Independence Day in the Arab Desert with former enemies now working side by side?). And when I mean the norm, I mean the Kardashians, the Pawn Shops, Haunted b/s, the Dynastys’ of duck or cows or whatever the spin off is or is going to be. Think there will be a movie about any of these shows in 20 to 30 years?

  2. Rudi Hoehn says:

    Pacific Rim was picture perfect

  3. Kokoda says:

    It is clear to me on a lot of levels that very often, so-called critics only like art-house flicks and don’t like to give positive reviews to mainstream movies, even of the caliber of Pacific Rim – it makes them look less intelligent, I’m sure that’s what they think. I had mixed feelings about going to see Pacific Rim, and I can be just as critical as the critics, but I found very little to criticise in this movie. It had a great plot, and the premise of the shared minds to harness the power of the Jaeger weaponry was a good concept and drove the plot in a different direction to what might have been another alien shoot-em up movie. I give it a 9/10 and don’t give a stuff what the critics say.

  4. formblazingsword says:

    I’m not usually one of those people who assumes that someone who doesn’t like a thing I like is a philistine who didn’t “get” it. Yet I think a lot of people didn’t “get” Pacific Rim. I mean, if comparisons to Transformers and Power Rangers are the best you can do, then I don’t think you know the genre(s) well enough to understand what a glorious and adept homage Pacific Rim really was. Go do your homework: Evangelion, Gundam, Mazinger, Gojira, Gamera — and write me a 500 word essay on why there had to be at least one monster split down the middle by a giant sword.

  5. I knew he would be passionate about this movie. That’s all I needed. It was exactly the kind of popcorn flick I was looking for.

  6. Armide says:

    I’ll be honest. Del Toro makes amazing movies. I expected an amazing movie; I saw a flippin’ awesometastic too good for words badass movie. I am please and my faith in del Toro continues.

  7. danwsc says:

    Loved it! I went to this movie looking for robot tech and monsters and found thousands of tons of them. The theme of the movie may be old, but it has set new standards and given a new life to the genre.

  8. Tim says:

    I wonder, did Ridley Scott take this much heat for the character development in Prometheus? Those characters were absolutely terrible, so-called scientists who were woefully naive and annoying.
    I think the sum of the movie covers up for the character issues and some dumb dialog. The movie managed to accomplish a lot as both animae continuation and new story. There are FAR worse things out there…Grown Ups 2, White House Down etc.

  9. cmgdnr says:

    I thought, visually, the movie looked great, but I couldn’t get past the underdeveloped characters, hokey dialog and poor execution by a couple of the main actors. I caught myself involuntarily rolling my eyes when certain characters would open their mouths. The cinematography was great as was the design of the creatures and robots. Maybe one or two too many fight sequences, but that didn’t bother me too much. In all, as much as I wanted to like this movie, I left the theater unsatisfied. Great action, but not feeling for the characters killed it for me.

  10. badlands75 says:

    Del Toro should benefit from the elevation of Taratino to auteur-status for the same glorified exploitation films he does. Taratino just gets bigger names (and possibly bigger names). I wonder if the reception would have been different if Pac Rim’s leads were DiCarprio and Sam Jackson, instead of Elba and Hunnam?

  11. I read many favorable reviews for Pacific Rim heading into Thursday night,and the word of mouth was strong from advanced screenings. To me critics that were negative obviously have a very narrow perspective of the roots of this sci-fi/fantasy genre. The negative reviewers constant “Bayformers/Power Rangers” blurb was redundant. I could tell that when they drew comparisons to those two bastardized versions (of what was always essentially from Japan:Super Sentai/Henshin/Mecha anime & Kaiju films) ad nauseam, they did not know the film del Toro was bringing to the screen. Nor did they do their homework (a web search of “del Toro Pacific Rim interview” would’ve sufficed) before they opened up their Macbooks to type away.

    It seems most folk/critics if they are not familiar go straight to generalizations and blanket statements like “ANOTHER giant robot movie”,um…no. This is the first GIANT robot vs. GIANT monster movie of this scale ever.

    Piranha 3-DoubleD has fish attacking people in it. So does Jaws (a big one). One is cheap crap the other is a really good movie. You could say the same applies to Transformers and Pacific Rim because their are robots in both films. But that doesn’t work either IMO. One has living “sentient” robots fighting each other,while the other has giant “Jaeger’s” piloted by humans (two to be exact – neurally connected) that battle giant Kaiju beasties from another world. One is a sophomoric,cynical,trashy “brand awareness” cash grab,while the other is a world fully realized. A beautiful looking film (props to DP Guillermo Navarro) with heart that also happens to be a fun time at the movies. I saw it twice and not only me,but both audiences I saw it with had a blast! Check out any YouTube video tagged “Pacific Rim trailer or review” and the praise has been very high since it’s opening.

    Of course it speaks volumes that Grown Ups 2 beat it in the U.S. where the majority are lemmings. Flocking to sequels and “branded” entertainment only like zombies. Pacific Rim should have put “2” on the title and it might have come in second place…might. I can understand animated family flicks like Despicable Me doing well,but the poop sandwiches that Adam Sandler spits out every summer that people support in droves? Ugh…

    For me,I don’t care if there is a sequel or not. I wholeheartedly enjoyed Pacific Rim both as a lover of the genre it pays homage too,and a great experience at the movies. Guillermo del Toro did an excellent job of creating a world I’m interested in revisiting as I will purchase a Blu-Ray copy for sure. Going to see it for a third time this weekend with some co-workers who picked up on it’s positive word of mouth. But even though Japan & China have yet to release the film,the bottom line is the bottom line. So it’s quite possible Guillermo takes a hit for any future big budget fare if Pacific Rim fades away in the coming weeks. All while uninspiring re-makes,sequels and “poop sandwiches” remain the status quo. More’s the pity.

  12. I couldn’t ask for more fun at a summer movie. Superman went too dark and lost sight of the core of the character. Star Trek felt like it needed to rehash an iconic scene in it’s own franchise for whatever reason and Iron Man 3, well, okay, that was pretty good. Pacific Rim gave us an original story with heroes you could cheer for and get behind even if their world was on the verge of annihilation. It still felt hopeful among the dark.

    Critics are just like people and most are extremely biased as to their likes and dislikes, they can’t help it. We can’t help it if critics and audiences have bad taste after all. Grown-ups 2? Really?

  13. JimJ says:

    This movie was everything I had hoped for, and more. I thought the level of character development was adequate for the story being told, in general. I’ve been puzzled by the negative reviews, as the quality and detail of the director’s vision fulfilled my expectations.

  14. I loved this movie. It’s what Ang Lee should have done with HULK, but failed terribly at. Del Toro almost winks at us during the whole thing, yet really bothers to create a diverse cast of interesting people. It’s what you want the Transformers to be- GOOD.

  15. Amanda says:

    I don’t know why it always sounds sarcastic when reviewers state, “If you like the genre you’ll like this movie.” I mean, that is pretty high praise! You have to know a genre really well to create a stellar addition to it, and Pacific Rim gave me everything I wanted. I loved the characters (I wanted more Russian pilots and more Mako/Stacker but I can’t get everything I want). I loved the film score– lately atmospheric orchestral scores are all starting to sound the same, either they lack a hook or steal it from Inception. And I got some monster fights. I thought he could have explored the ramifications of drifting with a little more depth and surreal memory scenes, but that doesn’t make it a failure to me.

    Sure, I adore Pan’s Labyrinth, Devil’s Backbone, and The Orphanage, and I also adore Hellboy. I’ll admit, Pacific Rim was a pretty awful Spanish ghost story. And Devil’s Backbone was a pretty awful kaiju flick. You have to judge a film within its genre, and I thought it was pretty clear what genre Pacific Rim was going to be.

  16. MrFurious says:

    Del Toro is a guy who’s movies I always want to like but never do. I’ve seen almost every single one of them, but didn’t like any of them. I don’t hate them, but for some reason, I just don’t like them. Still, I have a lot of respect for the guy. He does his own thing and you can tell he loves the movies he’s working on. His movies are beautiful to look at. There’s just something missing in his plots that always turns me off to his films.

  17. Neill says:

    I enjoyed the movie, but there was an apparent contradiction within the films logic at the end that while didn’t ruin the film for me caused me to leave the cinema annoyed- not really what you want from a film!

  18. The only issue here is that critics have a tendency to categorize filmmakers into two categories: “artist” and “entertainer”, and are at a loss when a precious fellow elite tries something different…it’s really snobbery. “Pacific Rim” is a quality action film (much better than most tent-pole blockbusters that get shoved down our throats every year). Also, del Toro has made it very clear that this is an homage to classic B monster/sci-fi movies from Japan; he never set out to make “Pan’s Labyrinth”. Critics should recognize that the best directors take on projects that they are passionate about, regardless of budget, genre, or mass-appeal – these things are all secondary in an artist’s heart, and all filmmakers are artists whether you like the finished piece or not.

  19. Eric Gufford says:

    Actually, I enjoyed the movie on its own merits. It’s well done, well acted, the effects are actually pretty good! The monsters didn’t look like puppets or ‘bad’ CGI we’ve seen in other movies of the genre; the characters were complex and well developed – albeit for the genre – and the storyline was unique, if cliche, which was the point – wasn’t it?

    Like Tarantino’s movies, this was more of a sendup – or is it mashup – of the 70’s Japanese monster movies, Hong Kong Kun fu junkets, Power Ranges and Transformers cartoons, among others. Kind of like Hellboy was.

    Is it a blockbuster? No. Is it a Toure de Camp? No. Will it redefine the genre? Hell yes! Finally, characters we can invest in; a story that kind of makes sense – albeit for the genre; Monsters as the baseline of the story, not the story itself; set piece battles that don’t look like petulant 2 yr old, more like MMA writ large.

    This changes everything. Just like LOTR did for fantasy epics, enabling things like Game of Thrones I expect to see this as a baseline, not a topline.

    Bravo, Mr. Del Torro!

  20. Bob smith says:

    I enjoyed this film greatly. The big problem with it was that the character relationships were’nt developed as fully as they should have been. There’s a big “Heroic Sacrifice” at the end but it didn’t land with the audience I saw the film with because the relationships in the film didn’t seem real. The two characters that moment centered on seemed to not actually know each other. I could take the film for what it was, but that might be what holds it back with American audiences.

  21. Robert Kowal says:

    As a fan of B Del Toro Boy I planned to looove this movie! I thought finally we’ll get to see giant monsters reeking havoc in all their glory, done right! But during the action I felt like cheapening shortcuts were made ala the Roland Emmirich’s Godzilla. B Del Toro may not have intentionally done this, but sadly that was the resulting effect. Also dissapointing, no all-important (in my mind) build up or ceremony in the reveal of the monsters. The general story and characters were just fine, but my inner 13 year old wanted more from the monsters!

  22. Kular says:

    I actually saw this movie with my girlfriend and her two non-English speaking cousins from Vietnam. We wanted to show them the spectacle of a high special effect, 3D movie. Something visually crazy that they never imagined they could experience. People were asking why we would bring people that don’t understand English to an English movie and my response was, ‘it’s Giant Robots fighting Giant Monsters in 3D, you don’t need to know what they’re saying. You just watch’.

    They absolutely loved the movie and they didn’t understand a word of dialogue. In fact, I would argue that because they couldn’t understand the characters that they watched a better movie than I did because the dialogue and acting was mostly atrocious. But, I still very much enjoyed this movie and would recommend it because I came to see giant monsters fighting giant robots and it was pretty saturated with giant monsters fighting giant robots.

  23. David says:

    Peter, nice to see a film critic who truly understands film from the creative POV and not just the analytical.

  24. Ced says:

    This movie was truly an awesome experience. I have to admit… I was one of the people who thought this was another Transformers/Battleship imitation. I truly believe that this may have been one of the biggest reasons why the movie didn’t do so well on opening weekend. Whenever I saw the previews/commercials for this movie, I had no interest at all. Then on Friday, I started to read and see all of the positive reviews on the net. So I decided to check it out Saturday night and was blown away. Had my attention from the 1st scene to the ending credits. My expectations for this movie were not high at all lol. It’s crazy though… I’ve seen Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel… and this movie was the better of the 3. This movie was so entertaining, I think I may have to go check it out again… this time in IMAX 3D. I wouldn’t call this movie a flop yet though. I really do think that it will bring some big bucks in with positive word of mouth. This will definitely be in my Blu-ray collection.

  25. Adam says:

    Look, Del Toro wanted to make a popcorn movie about giant robots fighting giant aliens. He did. It looks amazing and is exciting to watch. My ONE criticism of the film is that it should have had an orchestral score. Apart from that, anyone expecting one of Del Toro’s smaller masterpieces needs to “check their brain at the door”. I’ll tell you this: if he gets to make “At the Mountains of Madness” (which seems less likely now that “Pacific Rim” has all-but flopped, due to, what I think, is audience fatigue about giant robots, and no “star” to draw them in apart from giant robots, etc.), THAT will be his masterpiece. I only pray the guy gets to do it.

  26. Ash Talon says:

    I don’t think negative (or mediocre) reviews had to do with expectations. I think they’re more a reflection of the film’s actual quality. It’s mediocre. The characters are 1-dimensional and don’t have interesting arcs. The films spends a good time setting up elements (like the importance of “drifting” 2 similar pilots) yet never follow through on them to any interesting resolution. Hokey reveals (Idris’ piloting past, a robot’s sword) just in time to matter to the plot. There was potential for an interesting world, but it felt squandered. The budget is on-screen at least. The film just feels rather hollow and light. It falls into the “check your brain at the door” umbrella, but shouldn’t we expect more from del Toro or any other creative team given $150-180 million to spend?

  27. Dan Delago says:

    ‘Pacific Rim’ is the best popcorn film of the summer. My review:

  28. Testy Besttester says:

    What were they expecting from a Monster vs. Robot movie? Othello with Fx?

    • As Guillermo del Toro told Mr. Beaks over at Ain’t It Cool News: “We cannot pretend this is Ibsen with monsters and giant robots. I cannot pretend I’m doing a profound reflection on mankind.”

  29. Logan says:

    We audiences are not gonna care or bother going through the reviews of a bunch of critics as they are not the ones who decides whether the movie is a blockbuster or not! As for the movie, its the best with the best in class visual effects & superb background music! The movie is a great fun, its refreshing & fantastic in its detailed aspects, for those who haven’t watched it, do go & watch & stop negative critics they are fooling themselves & you (Incase if you are going by some critics view).

    Watched it twice already, will watch it again!

  30. People love to see what they want to see rather than engage what’s put before them. PACIFIC RIM is flawless in how it met my expectations as a big robot vs. big monster movie. The individual personalities of the Jaegars, the differentiated characters, the quality and length of the fight sequences and all their nuances and compositional perfection. Please. See it again. Go with a young audience. Like my 15, 11, and 9 year old boys. 10 of 10 from them and they were even generous enough to give the last TRANSFORMERS a hesitant thumbs up. Even the outlandish scientist characters were right out of a 1960s Godzilla flick. Thank you Guillermo!!

  31. Albert says:

    Pacific Rim started with a bang, slowed down enormously for the second act, even went off tilter for a moment with the whole mind meld thing, then scurried across the finish line.

    I was expecting more fighting. What u got was mostly what was seen in the trailer. I liked it like Man of Steel, but I didn’t love it like I wanted to.

  32. Neal Stevens says:

    Pacific Rim was everything that I wanted it to be. It’s obvious that del Toro makes movies on two different tracks — the small scale personal fantasies like Cronos that culminated in Pan’s Labrynth and the larger scale pop-culture inspired fantasies that started with Mimic and Hellboy and culminated here.

    This is what happens when somebody who actually knows and cares about this genre — giant monsters/giant robots — gets a shot at making one.

    • Walter says:

      @Neal Stevens: Exactly my thoughts. I loved every second of this. It wasn’t highbrow entertainment, but (despite what some say) it was stupid entertainment either. It was a fun movie the way blockbusters used to be.

  33. stopthebleeding says:

    YES, the critics DO have the wrong idea, at least YOUR critic Variety…. 78% seem to get it though… as do 90% of all who have actually seen it. PACIFIC RIM 11/10 Variety 0/10

  34. tksteve says:

    The fact that some critics wanted to spew acid on Pacific Rim is disappointing but not surprising. They make their bones snidely destroying rather than creating, whereas GdT does the opposite.

    Also not surprising is how ignorant the supposed film experts were in critiquing Pacific Rim. This film had nothing to do with Transformers, except for, duh: there are robots in it. Ditto Power Rangers. But I get it: critics’ pop culture knowledge is so shallow, they immediately go there.

    This film was made — and made very well, and with a lot of passion — by and for people that understood this would be a cinematic tribute to classic anime and other stories dealing with, yes, giant robots fighting giant robots. It’s not supposed to be Pan’s Labyrinth: but I suppose for all the lip service, you alleged highbrows didn’t “get” that film, either.

    • RoboDouche says:

      Well said tksteve couldn’t agree more.

      I loved the movie and I feel sorry for the people who can’t go lose themselves in a movie like this. My two boys and I had a great time watching this film. It was everything I hoped it would be.

  35. Marc R. says:

    Robots Vs Monster. “Period” if your going to go and see this movie for the acting, go to your local theater and sit in and watch a boring stage show. The acting in Pacific Rim is there to support the Gigantic Spectacle Monster Fights. I went to this movie wanting to see WWF/MMA style monster bashing and that’s exactly what I got (Thanks Guillermo, love your movie) . The visual treat of high contrast, high color saturation, muted neon reflection on scared metal, with pulsing pistons moving plates of steal, and a Giant Rocket punch to break the jaw of a Kaiju was totally a joy to witness!!! I for one am glad that the scenes were all dark and foreboding, it added so much more ambiguity and intrigue to the battle scenes. In the opening sequence your given bright lit Kaiju attacking cities in broad daylight, tanks and planes fighting the first wave of Kaijus. Maybe the Kaiju got smart and decided to go stealth under raging storms, hence the need for giant robots that can fight during typhoons and hurricane’s. People you gotta use your imagination as suspend disbelief to be able to enjoy a movie like this. Anything else, you gonna be debating physics and the theory of relativity and how it relates to gravity. Come on people your smarter than that, it’s a ficking Robot vs Monster movie. What more explanation do you need.

    The use of a water arena to stop the Kaiju before they entered the cities to do damage was genius. Floods of water and the slow motion of falling water droplets gave the scale of the Jaegers and Kaiju even more JuJu. Seriously folks, this goes for the publication reviewers too, get over your non understanding of a movie like this. Immerse yourself in the world of Manga, go see Robotech, go see Appleseed, go see Akira, and than watch the Matrix films to bring you back to mainstream
    American movies and then go see Pacific Rim. If paid reviewers are going to critique this film on their limited understanding about the Genre than go back to the literal hole that you came from. Pacific Rim has nothing to do with Pans Labyrinth. This robot bashing movie has more to do with Hellboy than anything people are familiar with from Del Toro.

    Speaking of Guillermo Del Toro, it is very comforting to know that this is his next motion picture and I very much hope he continues making more movies like this, he is a virtuoso with a very unique style and should be given the respect that this level of artist deserves. Working on a production like this and still maintaining ones signature look is an astounding accomplishment. Some directors, whom I will not mention here, alow themselves to just get lost in the production. Dell Toro seems to have found his niche and I’m happy for him.

    Personally I think that it was on purpose to jump to the end of the Kaiju vs Jaeger story line because this paves the way for Jaeger vs Jaeger sequel, which I hope is already in production. Because just like the tag line of this movie goes, “To fight Monsters we created Monsters.” And if Del Toro is true to form it is the monsters that we create ourselves which will be our own undoing. America’s Jaeger vs China or Russian Jaeger to dominate the planet with the Monstrous technology they created to deal with the Kaiju threat. The whole thought just fills me childish giddy wonder, and I for one would love to see that. So if any Execs at Warner Bros. is listening, don’t be pussies, move headstrong into the next wave of motion picture and bring us Giant Mech style Jaeger Machine’s to devastate our cinematic world. I’ll be going back to see Pacific Rim with a couple coworkers and probably again with some friends or family members, because truly Del Toro, created the most original, beautiful film I’ve seen in a long time, and to see it in theaters in 3D IMAX or XD is a total treat for the senses. I’ve never been so excited about a film before. Pacific Rim has delivered what I’ve been looking for in my movie going experience… I WANT MORE!!!

    ps Variety, please don’t edit my rant :)

  36. Gianni Gentili says:

    I believe the film delivered what fans of Del Toro and fans of the Japanese cult TV series were looking for from an action adventure film like this one. It was entertaining and the special effects were impressive. He managed to build every character, just like he did in his Hellboy movies and all other films he previously directed. It seems to me that there was so much expectations for this film that in the end what really happened is the feeling of disappointment for not reaching the numbers everyone hoped for but those feelings should not be confused with Del Toro’s work. I feel that it is not a bad result to reach 60% of what TRANSFORMERS 1 did it’s first weekend, considering that PACIFIC RIM is not a known toy nor famous characters from our youth. Maybe what was missing from this was to have a film with more star power in order to reach the numbers everyone expected, although nowadays not even big stars guarantee a result in theaters. I am looking forward to his next film. =)

  37. Rizzo51 says:

    I saw PACIFIC RIM on Friday night and loved it…but then again, I went to the theater EXPECTING to see “Godzilla” meets “Gundam” and that’s what I got! I thought the production design was excellent — those robots were big and scratched and dirty and clearly very heavy, i.e., they looked real — and I was pleasantly surprised at how much time Del Toro took to allow the characters to speak to each other. Not much human interaction in most summer blockbusters. I think the critics dislike movies like this because no one who does like them gives a hoot what critics say — so the critics sulk. They’re irrelevant in this sci-fi world and no one likes to be irrelevant. I think the biggest problem with PACIFIC RIM was the release date: too many movies in the same genre opening within 15 minutes of each other — the public is just in megaplex overload right now. One of these days the studios will learn that people will see movies during the other 10 months of the year — everything doesn’t have to be jammed into June and July!

  38. Mark says:

    The cast would be more “impressively diverse” if the diversity were somehow a story enhancer rather than a device to help sell the film abroad (Russia, check; China, check; Australia, check; Japan, check) or did you miss the utter transparency of that? The diversity was comic-book cliche diversity… throwing stars, Ivan Drago haircuts, rather than some interesting commentary on the world working together against a common enemy.

  39. Neal says:

    This was a live action giant robot vs giant monster film, like many of the old kaiju(Godzilla or otherwise), and giant mecha(Voltron, Power Rangers, Mazinger, etc.) series of past and present. It’s still Guillermo del Toro, but it’s also a film for fans of that particular genre. People need to understand that more.

  40. Michael Lloyd says:

    With all respect, I don’t generally feel confident with reviews. I understand they have (I suppose!) a job to do. But at the end of the day – it’s their opinion… That’s it….just opinion. And that presupposes they like the genre of the film they are reviewing. If they personally like serious drama – and they’re reviewing a sci-fi epic – there may be a disconnect.

    Honestly, I probably didn’t see Pacific Rim because it was a Guillermo del Toro film – though I have liked some of his previous work. I believe he did a wonderful job with Pacific Rim. Looked great. Liked everything about it. Felt like a MOVIE… You wouldn’t want Rim to be Pan…would you? By the way, I believe the mark of a great director is not making the same great film – over and over. But rather making individually great films. del Toro has made great films – in many, creative and various ways. How cool is that?

    Bottom line is – I like films. I like to be entertained. Could be sci-fi – could be drama – could be comedy. Whatever it is I would like to feel entertained. After all, it’s called the entertainment business.

    And to paraphrase a bit of dialog from one of my movies…”:nobody puts Guillermo del Toro in the corner.”

    – Michael Lloyd

    • Dennis says:

      That’s why film criticism has fallen into abject opinion. Too many people feel talented enough to spout off about a movie rather than use an objective scale of critique that meets certain literary standards. You need to follow an educated critic; one that has a deep love and understanding of film. One who is not too academic and actually enjoys movies rather than just listening to his own prattle. There are many very good films to satisfy many different audiences. That’s the real bar reviewers need to achieve; realizing taste is in the individual and matching it to their readers.

  41. The One, The Only, The Beast, Nelson! says:

    I enjoyed the FX but the story, dialogue, and acting had a little more to be desired. And yes, I wanted to LOVE this movie, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. 2.5 stars outta 4!

    So far the best Summer movie to date is Star Trek 2!

  42. Josh Goldman says:

    I’m a fan. I was lucky enough to see the film at the Samuel Goldwyn Academy theater followed by a Q&A with del Toro. First I have to point out the 3D glasses they have there are amazing. They’re real lenses, not the thin, easily scratched plastic you get when you go to the local theater. I typically hate 3D because I wear prescription glasses and the cheap ones always ruin it for me because they never sit right or there’s a scratch that gives me a weird reflection or glare off of my regular glasses.

    During the Q&A del Toro stated that this is the movie the 11 year old inside him wanted to see. Having also grown up watching the original Godzilla movies, Voltron, Robotech, Transformers, Power Rangers, and numerous other cartoons and various Anime (that SyFy showed when it was still Sci-Fi and brought a lot of rarely seen programming to our screens), this was the film the 11 year old inside of me wanted as well. When talking about the visuals, it should be important to note that he carefully and purposefully made the decisions about color, saturation, lighting, and cuts to elicit very specific results.

    I can completely understand why people would not like this film. It’s not for everyone. However, if you know what you’re getting into when you decide to watch it, and aren’t expecting to see Pan’s Labyrinth with giant robots, I think the average person would enjoy it for what it is, a movie about giant robots beating the crap out of giant monsters.

  43. richard says:

    Guillermo del Toro gets tons of love from the snobs because he is not an American, because snobs love to think themselves so sophisticated in appreciating his “indie” and “foreign” movies… Guillermo most likely thinks they are all idiots, morons who don’t get him or anything, but he says nothing because it serves him. He’s all about Hellboy, all about Pacific Rim and all about genre. If Pacific Rim had been directed by an american, say Michael Bay or anybody else considered “not cool”, it would have vilified beyond Lone Ranger standands. But all these idiots try to salvage it because “it’s del Toro and they all “loooooove” the Pan, being so sophisticated and shit”. It is quite silly, really, and if the movie had actually made money, del Toro would be laughing his big ass all the way to the bank, but probably right now he’s worried about how this will reflect in his capacity to get another big budget project off the ground. I for one hope he does because I think he is a terrific filmmaker, whatever he chooses to do.

  44. Steve Radcliffe says:

    This is a smart analysis. You’re absolutely right that it’s the big-scale action moments that sometimes fail to connect, and not the characters as many reviews have criticised. The film deals with broad strokes archetypes largely out of necessity because it features a true ensemble cast, and there’s nothing more del Toro than in its delicate moments of character idiosyncrasy that suffer only because they feel out of place in the current “event cinema” world. Pacific Rim is character-led, at a time in which that’s anathema for big studio pictures. Too many of them get by on explosive action without ever selling any sense of threat because you’re so underinvested in the characters. It’s cheap and tacky and designed to maximise profit before audience emotion, and I fear the current crop of critics has not been immune to the effects of this sort of dumbing down. “It’s a big studio action movie, what do you expect?” is such a weak argument.

    Pacific Rim might have been all the more enjoyable had it only ever talked about its Kaiju/Jaegar showdowns as opposed to actually capturing them. In those battle scenes, it’s the del Toro touches that make them work at all – the giant mecha hand tipping the Newton’s cradle, or the seagulls flying out of the way of a falling Kaiju. If there’s any certainty about del Toro it’s that he injects every ounce of belief and passion into any project he takes on to completion. If he’d stayed on The Hobbit he might have been able to parlay those billion-dollar grosses into an OK for a passion project, but he didn’t. He’s a man with a rare integrity that, sadly, doesn’t get him as far as it should these days. And the language of his kind of blockbuster cinema is also oftentimes a naive one, and it doesn’t necessarily fit into the kind of licensing-led contractually-obligated cinema that defines the summer season today.

    But with expensive passions like Mountains of Madness always tempting him, he’ll always keep trying to prove himself on the biggest scales. And honestly, I for one am grateful he’s not constantly trying to recapture the brilliance that made Pan’s such a hit. This is how twisted the Hollywood machine seems to have become: even critics would rather reboots and sequels of what they’ve enjoyed in the past over grand ambition and attempts at a degree of originality. What a shame.

  45. This is most definitely a Del Toro film. It is a louder echo of the Hellboy movies. Those two films featured swimming, spewing, fighting monsters and giant robots in hand-to hand combat with the hero.

    I personally think Devil’s Backbone is his finest work of pure storytelling for the screen. The more creatures and action overtake his movies, the less room there is for humanity.

    Sometimes we want small films, sometimes we want spectacle. Del Toro is a master at both, just not at the same time, in the same film. Is anyone?

  46. Adam Perry says:

    Pacific Rim never pretended to be high brow. Unlike previous summer blockbusters that failed to deliver (White House Down, etc.), I got every penny’s worth out of my 3-D ticket. Will it change my worldview and expand my horizons? No but that’s not what I wanted and I highly doubt it was del Toro’s intention.

  47. JohnS says:

    Giant Monster vs Giant Robots. The fact that it makes sense and has involving characters is just a bonus. The acting is live action anime…which is AWESOME fun. I didn’t expect much beyond awesome looking, fun giant monster battles I would have seen if Destroy All Monsters had been made 50 years later.

    The rain and night thing did bother me quite a bit though. Was he worried that we might notice that it wasn’t realistic?

  48. esteban says:

    Why is your magazine so keen for this film to fail?

    • Variety isn’t rooting for “Pacific Rim” to fail. Speaking for the critics, I think we approach every movie hoping it will be great. The point of this essay was to examine how the expectations critics had going in (that “Pacific Rim” would be like the little, foreign-language del Toro movies that they love) was completely counter to both what audiences wanted and what del Toro intended with this project.

      • Priss says:

        Mr. Debruge, I think it has to do with Robert Koehler’s embarassing “debate” in twitter about on del Toro’s “needing” to do a movie about Mexico, kidnapping being nothing serious in Mexico, and that del Toro’s films all suck.

        Add then all the articles about tracking and all…many people got certain implications.

      • Fred says:

        Well it sure sounds like it to me. Just about every article I’ve seen from Variety seemed to suggest of this film failing in one way or another. I’ve yet to see “Pacific Rim” but I will be seeing it later this week. And if this film can show strong legs in America and make hefty grosses around the world, it will end up making the money it needs to succeed and Del Toro just might have the last laugh in the long run.

      • TheAngryOldman says:

        What are you talking about? You don’t represent all critics even remotely. Pacific Rim is currently at 71% on rotten tomatoes. This essentially means that 71% of critics gave it a positive review, while 29% of critics gave it a negative review. Variety critics are in the minority side of opinion on this movie and don’t speak for critics as a whole. This like the the 5th negative article about Pacific Rim that has been posted on the Variety site. I think you can stop beating this dead horse now and move on.

      • stopthebleeding says:

        Like I said in my rant to other critics, PACIFIC RIM knows what it is, unlike Transformers who tries to be too complicated for how dumb it is. Guillermo knew exactly what he was doing and crafted a film that fit the genre in every detail. Critics that don’t get that seem to lambast him for making a ‘lazy’ film or as far as questioning his grasp on the English language (that guy should be fired!) PACRIM is pointedly simple in it’s story, and it’s characters, yet it still manages to keep enough emotion to care enough to cheer for the humans. Best way to describe it this. Pacific Rim (GDT) sets up a world in the 1st 10-20 minutes, and then is absolutely aderent to the rules of that world for the entire film. Even visually, the film puts you in this world and holds you there (one bad review stated it reminded them of Blade Runner) …awesome, and guess what Blade Runner was mimicking? …. anime! And yet when’s the last time you saw a movie set at night in the rain (for the most part) and yet walked out of the movie not depressed? GDT planned it all, from the saturated colors to the fact that there were no people in the streets during those massive fights… all to keep the viewer focused on the 2 heros in the Jaeger, and remove the ‘victims’ from the violence. Genius! You cheer, you laugh, you awe, and bam it’s over and you want more. THAT’s what a summer movie should be. And that’s what critics should always be looking for in these big films.
        Was it fun!? check Did I get my time/money’s worth!? check Did it obey it’s own rules!? check
        Is it worth a second look!? by way of this article… CHECK 4/4 looks perfect to me….

      • Sam says:

        Then why are you comparing it to Battleship a month before it’s released?

  49. godtisx says:

    But Idris Elba is in it. So, I guess I will be there anyway.

    • Byron says:

      I am very torn about this film. I am exactly in the camp as described in the article. I wanted to love this film, because I love Del Toro. Pan’s Labyrinth is one of the finest pieces of cinema ever. Hellboy shows he can do big blockbuster and make it interesting and unique. But Pacific Rim for me is a bit disappointing. I didn’t go in expecting Shakespeare, but I definitely didn’t expect something so brainless from someone like Del Toro. Don’t get me wrong, it looked amazing, and I enjoyed the battles, but that’s it.

      The dialogue was pretty average, and so many characters were cardboard cut outs. The trouble with people going MONSTERS vs ROBOTS!! What’s not to like?? Is because then studios make films like Transformers 3, or Battleship, which don’t even try to give us anything other than big special effects set pieces. I’m not saying Pacific Rim is as bad as those films, but it’s heading in that direction. The last few years have shown that you can do intelligent blockbusters, Dark Knight, Inception, Skyfall, I would even throw in Avengers, with characters that matter. I was hoping for something on a similar level from GDT. I don’t think Pacific Rim delivered that

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