Pacific Rim
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief language.
2 hr. 12 min.

Remember when we used to make fun of all those Japanese monster movies for their corny stories and low budget effects?

Well, the laughter is over. In an attempt to woo worldwide audiences in Asia and Russia, big budget producers have taken what used to be cheap thrills and poured millions of dollars into special effects, digital sound and international casts.

Pay attention, moviegoers. This is a sign that the film industry is truly going global, and Pacific Rim is a perfect example of what to expect from here on out. Across the world, cinema lovers are demanding action, heroes, worldwide catastrophe and lots of boom, and in this sci-fi beast that’s exactly what they get.

So, given this trend, I guess you could say there’s good news and bad news.

The good news is that if you want this type of action with visuals and sound that literally overwhelm the senses (I saw this in ear-splitting XD), then Pacific Rim is your cup of tea.

If you’re hoping for something that includes intelligence and an interesting story, well, you’re now officially in the minority and the future for your particular preference is none too bright.

In Pacific Rim, underwater aliens are producing giant sea monsters that are threatening human existence. In a case of the world inexplicably pulling together to combat these monsters, a giant type of robot weapon has been produced that can hold its own with the creatures. It involves nuclear power, a gigantic version of rock-’em-sock-’em robots, lots of high-tech gadgetry and mind melding.

Robot pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) has survived a catastrophic encounter with these creatures and has decided to hang up his weapons. But with the world being overwhelmed, commander Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) makes a desperate appeal for him to return for one last fight. He is teamed with a rookie pilot named Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi). It’s a case of girl meets boy meets monster. A perfect place for love to grow.

Director Guillermo del Toro is no stranger to either action or monsters. Having directed such gems as Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy and Hellboy II, you might expect that his expertise would rub off on this film’s production values.

Alas, with all the special effects flying off the screen, it’s hard to tell who’s in control of the wheel. The action is certainly fast-paced and relentless, but to what effect? It seems the intent is to pound the audience with more visuals and sound than an average viewer could possibly handle and hope that nobody notices the holes in the story.

To his credit, del Toro seems to recognize one thing: Keep the monsters coming. That’s probably the one smart decision made in this film. As long as the monsters are fighting with the giant robot gladiators, it doesn’t matter what else may be in play.

As for the writing, I had the feeling that it was deliberately aimed at about a sixth grade level, which makes sense if you’re dealing with a young audience or you need to write something that can be easily subtitled.

So why was this film entertaining? Strictly speaking, it’s a special-effects powerhouse that rolls through two hours like a runaway train. It has small moments of humor and an ocean full of fighting, lights, deafening roars and heroic pronouncements. All of this is hard to ignore in the same way that a plane crashing into your house might catch your attention.

Welcome to the future. Welcome to the worldwide audience for Pacific Rim. Forget brain. Enjoy the action. Eat lots of popcorn. Root for the good guys. That’s about as much as this film expects from you. And sadly, for the near future, Pacific Rim is about as good as it’s going to get.