You take one very talented, Mexican director. You give him a big, American budget courtesy of a big, American studio (Warner Bros.) to make a Japanese monster movie. What do you get? You get director Guillermo del Toro’s signature elements (strange characters, insect imagery, dark locations and, of course, Ron Perlman), you get big studio elements (egotistical, Top Gun pilot banter, military camaraderie, bombs counting down with big, red digital clocks) and you get Japanese Kaiju (monsters! minus their significance in Japan). Though it never seems to gel completely, it ultimately succeeds in bringing us great, big monsters battling the human race. And isn’t that why you go see a movie like this? It is less successful at getting us to root for our military heroes (Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Idris Elba) all whom are given the limited, cliche interaction we have seen and heard since forever. More colorful and interesting are the minor characters (Charlie Day, Ron Perlman) who provide some humor and variety and seem to align more to del Torro’s view of things.
The story gets going right away (yeah!) and we learn that the Kaiju have been attacking the earth via a portal under a crevasse in the Pacific Ocean. The humans combat these creatures with giant robots that are controlled by 2 people who lock into one another (via their brains – it’s called entering the “drift”). And that is really all you need to know because the rest of the movie is monsters and robots rocking and rolling in 200 million dollar cinema fashion. And as visually impressive as these scenes are, del Torro severely hampers them by choosing to shoot almost everything at night or at night and in/under the water. Moreover, the camera often stays too close to the action (i wanted more establishing shots-more shots that show us both figures at the same time) Also, I would say that at least half of the battles were a complete struggle to follow what was going on (I saw it in Imax 3D and I was sitting too close which may have been part of the problem). It was a very mixed experience but I really love a good monster movie and I enjoyed it enough to say I liked it but be warned: If this is not 100% your cup of tea then duck into “Grown Ups 2”. Wait, scratch that idea. See something else.