It may be occasionally corny, derivative, and familiar... but damn, it was fun.
There's a childlike sensibility that went into the making of this film. It is all about the mechanics and function of the world. The plot and dialogue almost all revolves around the machines or the monsters, and for the most part it creates a very interesting universe, though mostly through the smaller details. But mainly it's the strength of its characters that pushes the film along. Although they are not much more than well drawn archetypes, they work within the context of the story, to such a degree that not much more is needed from them.
The leads are particularly strong. Idris Elba of course steals the show, with an interesting take on the hardnosed military leader (Stacker Pentecost). Charlie Hunnam is passable as the male lead (Raleigh Becket), who is basically just a hero, but manages to have some nice screen presence to make up for it. Rinko Kikunchi plays the female lead (Mako Mori), and she comes across as both strong and vulnerable without falling into super clichéd. Which brings me to the supporting cast who all had nice moments to shine. No character is totally irrelevant and most of them brought a touch of humor to the proceedings so that the film didn't take itself too seriously. Which was good, given how serious the main story is.
Of course the real stars of the show were the Robots (called Jaegers) and Monsters (called Kaiju). The amount of loving attention that was put into the special effects really showed. Every single time the Jaegers and Kaiju were on screen, their conflict was impossible not to get drawn into. The level of detail was particularly effective in how it conveyed scope. These robots and creatures are simply massive, and the weight and power of them can totally be felt. Though it often came down to a very pretty version of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, it somehow never devolved into camp.
There are also several mild references to disaster movies, including Independence Day, which I think is where I can draw the most parallels. Not that Independence Day and Pacific Rim have very much in common, but there are some themes that were very similar, and at least one scene that was a direct homage. Of course, that is really unimportant, because nuance is rarely required in a film like this. Which is an unabashedly large and loud action movie. It just so happens to be a very good one.
The other Jaeger pilots are all international, although they are a bit too stereotypical. For example, the Russian pilots are big and gruff looking, with an old powerful Jaeger that looked like a block of metal.
The bones of defeated Kaiju can be seen in background scenes as parts of buildings.
There is a back story given at the beginning of the movie, and most of the rest of the film takes place about twenty years in the future.
Burn Gorman (Torchwood) has a significant role as a stodgy scientist, and steals every scene he's in.
Ron Perlman is in this (probably because he seems to be Guillermo del Toro's favorite actor), in a fun bit part as a Kaiju body parts dealer. He's very over the top, and has a pair of the coolest shoes I've ever seen.
The way they handled the controls of the Jaegers was really inventive. I won't go into details, but it was a brilliant way to explore some character stuff without resorting to reminiscing flashbacks.
Stay through the first bit of credits for an additional scene that is totally worth the few minute wait.
I won't say that Pacific Rim will win any awards for acting or scripting, but it is up there as one of the most enjoyable movie experiences I've had all year.
3 out of 4 Giant robots with retractable swords bigger than a mac-truck.
J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.