Thursday, August 22, 2013
Guillermo del Toro is a versatile cinema fabulist. PAN’S LABYRINTH, his heartbreaking dark fairy tale set in 1944 fascist Spain, stands as one of the finest films of the last ten years. Meanwhile, on the other end of the tonal spectrum, his freewheeling adaptation of HELLBOY, a series of graphic novels about a coarse, sulfurous, cigar-chomping hero, overflows with goofy humor and infectious energy. In del Toro’s latest fantasy opus Earth becomes the target of regular assaults by giant monsters called Kaiju that rise up at increasing intervals from a portal in the ocean’s depths and wreak havoc on seaboard cities. To combat these alien behemoths the military develops Jaegers, a fleet of titanic robots manned by neural-linked pilot/fighters. For a time this stems the tide of destruction; however, budget cuts shut down the official Jaeger program and replace the robots with towering, supposedly impenetrable, coastal walls. But the Kaiju learn and evolve and soon break through these barriers. Luckily Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) has quietly kept the Jaeger program on line. He enlists former pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) to rejoin the ragtag remainders, including grizzled veteran Herc Hansen (Max Martini) and his hotheaded son Chuck (Robert Kazinsky), and, after extensive try-outs, Stacker’s aide Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) proves the best neural match to co-pilot a Jaeger with Raleigh. Meanwhile bickering scientists Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Gottlieb (Burn Gorman), desperate to permanently close the Kaiju portal, turn to underworld black marketeer Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman) for help. In the final analysis a movie like this is measured by the quality and quantity of monster vs. robot mayhem, and in this regard the filmmakers deliver spectacularly. The script by Travis Beacham & del Toro also provides enough satisfying if superficial character moments to appease those who prefer the IRON MAN series ethos to that of the TRANSFORMERS. The solid performances are serviceable, and Perlman brings some welcome humor to what is otherwise an overly serious summer popcorn picture.