“Pacific Rim”: Robots and Monsters and the Little People That Scurry

Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro's gift for crafting inventive monster-mash spectacles is on glorious display throughout this saga, in which Earth's last hope against the colossal beasts known as “Kaiju” is a ragtag collection of resistance fighters — led by Idris Elba's standard-issue commander and Charlie Hunnam's stock hotshot hero — who pilot enormous anthropomorphic robots known as “Jaegers.” Heavily influenced by Japanese mecha anime franchises like Mobile Suit Gundam and Neon Genesis Evangelion (not to mention Godzilla and Transformers), the film's rock'em-sock'em centerpieces have a towering muscularity and creativity, be it out at sea or in crowded metropolises (where the chaos is shaped by not-so-subtle Hiroshima and 9/11 imagery). Those sequences are aided by excellent creature and war-machine designs, as well as deft directorial staging that only sporadically devolves into typical special effects-overloaded visual incoherence. Alas, while Del Toro's clashes of titans boast a thunderous intensity, the smaller-scale efforts of Hunnam to find courage, consummate romance (with Rinko Kikuchi's upstart pilot), overcome past trauma, and triumph over personal adversity too often turn the proceedings into a lumbering collection of clichés that could just as well be annihilated.

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