Pacific Rim (d. Guillermo del Toro USA 2013)

Pacific Rim (d. Guillermo del Toro USA 2013)

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Kaiju (Japanese) Giant Monster. This definition is given right at the start. However, how many people will realise that the term has a large history to it? Kaiju Eiga (Giant Monster Films) is a well established genre and has influenced countless films in and out of Japan. Pacific Rim has been described as a cross between Transformers (d. Michael Bay USA 2007) and Gojira (d. Ishirō Honda Japan 1954), well honestly (adopts American accent) Godzilla (d. Roland Emmerich USA/Japan 1998). I feel the film is closer to The Matrix Revolutions (d. Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski USA/Australia 2003)or Avatar (d. James Cameron USA/UK 2009) with Gamera Daikaiju Kuchu Kessen (d. Shusuke Kaneko Japan1995). The type of Kaiju featured seem closer to the Gamera Series (though an obvious King Kong features, I really saw Gyaos in the winged one). Recently Hollywood has been contemplating its imminent destruction and has often looked to a foreign market. Is this part of the reason Pacific Rim has such an Asian focus? Can’t be sure. This, however, for all its virtues, is an American blockbuster.


What do I mean? Well, have you seen a big budget film without explosions? Fast paced attempted realistic action? And recently, a lot of CGI? The film is visually stunning. It survives well on the merits of its budget and the merits of the sci-fi. There are some good fight scenes and plenty of moments focusing on the hi resolution destruction. Though, I definitely don’t mean the after effects of this destruction. Added are welcome moments of humour in mechas (read jaegers) or Kaiju falling and just about hitting something – a science experiment or a car causing the alarm to go off. These are controlled moments of CGI to add humour to moments of ‘Look what we can do’ visuals. Again, as always, I fear for the day we look back and see a cheap gimmick in this CGI.


America in Asia? Sounds silly doesn’t it? Well, in proper tribute to the kaiju eiga genre, the film is indeed set in Asia – Hong Kong. In spite of the location and some of the extras, this is about as far as the film goes. Despite many themes of the genre, the film taps into Western ideas far more – individualism and the stardom of the hero for example. It’s particularly noticeable that the film fails to adhere to some of the kaiju eiga fundamentals. The monsters are far from unstoppable and also have a reason for being. Gojira was always a being that would laugh at missiles, planes and even meteors! Whilst always destroying mindlessly. This being the essence of the nuclear metaphor – the bomb was devastatingly powerful, unstoppable and with a disproportionate amount of reason. Survivors would forever ask why it was them who had to suffer. It is important to note that Gojira was never meant to be realistic either, a trait westerners always struggle with. Although Pacific Rim had its ridiculous moments – falling and causing destruction whilst just nudging objects that are comparably fragile – it lacked a proper understanding. It tried to be too realistic.


As much as Pacific Rim was enjoyable and actually attempted a proper tribute – Godzilla falls closer to bastardisation than a tribute! – it is still a film that lacks the proper understanding of what’s powerful about the kaiju eiga. This film has some powerful moments of CGI resulting in some interesting visuals. In Pacific Rim’s actual attempt to pay a tribute, there is a blurring of sensibilities that cause a development to the genre. However, Gojira, Gamera Daikaiju Kuchu Kessen, Mosura (d. Ishirō Honda Japan 1961), Gojira tai kingu gidorâ (d. Kazuki Ohmori Japan 1992) and Mosura tai Gojira (d. Ishirō Honda Japan 1964) will always be far superior. My only sadness with this film is, that I feel a large part of the western world will remember ‘kaiju’ for Pacific Rim and not for its true origins. 


Further Reading

Official Site


del Toro Interview

Den of Geek Interview with del Toro


Gamera: Guardian of the Universe or Gamera Daikaiju kuchu Kessen

Gojira in Defence of Kaiju Cinema

Kalat, David. A Critical History and Filmography of Toho’s Godzilla Series. McFarland & Company, Inc, Publishers, 2010 (2nd Edition).

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