When an alien attack threatens the Earth's existence, giant robots piloted by humans are deployed to fight off the menace.
Domestically, 'Pacific Rim' was amongst summer 2013's major flops. With a production budget of $190 million, Guillermo del Toro's grand scale monster movie barely managed to crack the $100 million mark stateside. I'll admit it – based solely on the trailers, I had absolutely no desire to see 'Pacific Rim.' But I wasn't alone. As proven by the box office numbers, the majority of the moviegoers in North America felt the same way. It wasn't until I attended a local press screening that my opinion of the film changed. I had to eat my words. Considering the immense amount of fun that I had with it, I was happy to do so. And I wasn't the only one. By the time opening day came around, 'Pacific Rim' sat with a healthy Rotten Tomatoes rating in the low 70s – but that didn't matter. The film's negative perception was widespread and the movie became critic-proof in a negative way. Lucky for del Toro, Warner Brothers, Legendary Pictures, and us – the fans of the film – the international draw was huge. With a worldwide gross of $407.5 million, the director and studios could feel successful and we could get a sequel.
'Pacific Rim' is an all-out fun summer blockbuster. With fantastic special effects, tons of action, and a wildly loud sound effects, it's everything that a blockbuster should be. Watching it the first time, I couldn't help but think that this is the movie that 'Transformers' should have been.
The film starts off with a voiced-over recap of what happened across the globe between 2013 and 2020. In 2013, an inter-dimensional rift opened in the floor of the Pacific Ocean. A monster measuring more than 200 feet passed through. It took six days for military forces to bring it down, but it had already destroyed much of San Francisco and two neighboring cities. Six months later, the same thing happened again. And again. These monsters became known as Kaiju, the Japanese word for "monster." Knowing that the Kaiju would keep coming, nations of the world banded together to create monsters of their own – robotic machines of the same size known as Jaeger. These machines were so powerful that they had to be piloted by two mentally-linked humans.
After the opening recap, we're introduced to two of these pilots – brothers Yancy and Raleigh Becket. We see how they get into their Jaeger, how the mental connection (known as "the drift") functions and how they co-pilot their robot. Of course, we also see them fight a Kaiju. This scene shows us a complete contrast from the Jaeger fights that we're shown in the recap. Something has changed. The Jaegers could quickly take down the Kaiju before, but Yancy and Raleigh get their asses kicked. In the process, Yancy is killed and Raleigh miraculously survives. After 17 minutes, we finally get to the film's opening title sequence.
After the titles, we jump another five years into the future. The Kaiju have continued to adapt and the Jaeger program hasn't been able to keep up. The Jaeger program is being ended to focus strengths on building a massive wall surrounding the Pacific Rim. Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) has gone off the grid. He's still traumatized by the death of Yancy. Because the two were "in the drift" when Yancy was killed, Raleigh experienced Yancy's death. The leader of the dying Jaeger program (Idris Elba) is able to sway Raleigh into one last hoorah mission to close the Kaiju rift in the ocean floor.
'Pacific Rim' quickly becomes a large-scale ensemble flick not unlike 'Independence Day.' We meet the Jaeger program's coordinator (Rinko Kikuchi), two Kaiju scientists (Charlie Day and Burn Gorman), a local black market vendor (Ron Perlman), a Jaeger techie (Clifton Collins Jr.) and seven other Jaeger pilots. After the 17-minute intro, the first hour or the film is devoted to introducing and establishing many of these characters. The second hour is when all the loud, explosive, and visually-pleasing action takes place. The characterization and action ultimately balance out to make a story worth investing in. Because you care about the characters, the dangerous action scenarios that they're placed in carry gravity.
I'm not a del Toro groupie. I also don't believe that 'Pacific Rim' is the best movie of the year. But I do believe that del Toro made a fantastic monster film and that 'Pacific Rim' is one of the year's most entertaining movies.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
'Pacific Rim' storms onto Ultra HD as part of a two-disc Ultra HD Blu-ray + Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack. The UHD BD houses the film only, but does offer a helpful Resume Movie feature. The BD houses the film and Bonus Materials, and appears to be the same 2D "Movie" Blu-ray from the original release (it even includes a pre-menu trailer for 'The Seventh Son'). However, please note this combo pack does NOT include the second, Bonus Features Blu-ray.
It's also worth noting that, like all Warner Bros. Ultra HD Blu-rays, this Digital HD code can be redeemed at VUDU for the UHD version, which features both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos and is, in my humble opinion, the finest looking streaming title available today. (VUDU has also announced support for HDR10, but I haven't heard specifics about when that will be available.)
I'm in the middle of reviewing LG's stunning E6 OLED Ultra HD TV, which supports both HDR 10 and Dolby Vision, and produces black levels that embarrass the best plasma displays ever made. More on this soon.
'Pacific Rim' is GLORIOUS in Ultra HD with HDR/WCG and may just be the finest example of what the format has to offer. It's not perfect -- there are a few moments of softness (the main title), skin tones are little flushed, and this HDR pass doesn't always deliver the spectral highlights and shadow details we'd want -- but it's darn close and blows the Blu-ray out of the water.
From the first frame to the last, 'PacRim' produces a sumptuous array of visuals. The inky black levels of drift-dreams and the ocean floor drip in shadows, while the neon glow of Hong Kong cityscapes pop off the screen, giving the image an almost-3D quality. The wider color gamut is jaw dropping too; futuristic computer monitors hover in bold primaries, while the Kaijus are rich in their oozing pastels. I just can't get over how beautiful this movie looks. Talk about eye candy.
This is a film where the VFX work varies from photo-real to something more akin to sytlized animé, and all of that holds up here. It seems HDR/WCG can reveal weaknesses in some UHD movies, say 'Fury Road', where certain effects feel lighter and less immersed in the movie's world. 'Pacific Rim', however, looks noticeably clearer and sharper and weighted than the Blu-ray and even the VUDU UHD version with Dolby Vision. Clearly, the added bandwidth of physical media has made this movie look better than ever.
That said, and I need to do a little more research on this over multiple titles, in comparing this UHD Blu-ray with HDR10 to the VUDU UHD with Dolby Vision, the UHD BD isn't as good at revealing spectral highlights (note the Jaegar's various laser weapons) or shadow details. In that sense, the UHD BD is a bit more contrasty, leading to some crush. However, some of this may be more inherent on my LG E6, which I'm still dialing in; then again, the Dolby Vision VUDU stream, on the very same panel, offers much more shadow detail without sacrificing color or contrast.
Bottom line. Meet your new Ultra HD demo disc. While not perfect, 'Pacific Rim' is one of my favorite Ultra HD offerings thus far (along with 'The Great Gatsby'). It's absolutely gorgeous, and a quantifiable upgrade for anyone with the right display.
'Pacific Rim' has always been surround sound demo material, but this Dolby Atmos mix rises above the original Blu-ray's 7.1 offering (FYI -- the standard Blu-ray in this set retains that 7.1 mix).
This sonic powerhouse is defined by two key areas. LFE performance, which is absolutely Earth-shattering and lends weight to battle sequences brimming with skyscraper-sized Kaiju and Jaegars. And then there's the sense of immersion itself; sound objects pan around the living room with aplomb. Monsters roar and chopper rotors whirl overhead, while there's a fantastic sensation of diving under the ocean surface anytime the camera drops below churning waves. Side and rear surround activity is also well placed, particularly in the chaotic drift and dream sequences.
Overall, everything you loved about the 'Pacific Rim' is now more immersive, guttural, and exciting than before. Del Toro and his sound team created an aural universe and brought it to life. I don't think it's quite as riveting as 'Mad Max Fury Road', but it's right up there as one of the best surround mixes ever released on home video.
Warner Bros has elected to only include the bonus materials that were on the original release's 2D Blu-ray. As such, I've dropped the score by two points. They are as follows:
While it took a couple viewings for me to appreciate, I've come to unabashedly adore 'Pacific Rim' for all its geektastic monster action, thrilling set-pieces, and world-building beauty. For anyone who grew up watching 'Godzilla' films, it's about as good as the monster-fight genre has ever offered.
In Ultra HD, the results are spectacular. Despite a few imperfections, this is one of the sharpest, most detailed, and colorful films the format has ever offered. And, on top of that, you get a reference quality Dolby Atmos sound mix as well as an UltraViolet code that can be redeemed for VUDU UHD, which includes Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. In terms of drawbacks, it's a shame that WB doesn't include the 3D Blu-ray, or that the HD version doesn't include Dolby Atmos, or that some of the Special Features have been left behind. But honestly, after watching the film in UHD, you won't want to watch the Blu-ray.
If you're a 'Pacific Rim' fan who has upgraded to an Ultra HD display with HDR capabilities, and have Dolby Atmos at home, this release is Must Own. If you're simply looking for a UHD Blu-ray demo disc that will test the strengths and weaknesses of your entire system, it also comes Highly Recommended.