Giant robots fighting Lovecraftian monsters. That is all. GIANT ROBOTS FIGHTING LOVECRAFTIAN MONSTERS.
That sentence tells you pretty much everything you need to know about "Pacific Rim," which is Guillermo del Toro's loving valentine to Japanese monster movies and mecha anime. It isn't a deep movie, but it doesn't pretend to be -- it just wants to entertain you with giant robots beating up grotesque sea monsters, and it succeeds at that.
When an interdimensional rift allows monstrous kaiju to attack Australia, the US, Japan, China and Russia (for some reason, no Mexico and/or Chile), those countries band together to create Jaegers -- giant mecha suits to destroy the kaiju, with mind-linked pilots inside. Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) was one of the pilots, until his brother was killed and the American Jaeger "Gipsy Danger" was wrecked by a new, stronger kind of kaiju.
When the governments stupidly abandon the program (they're building a WALL!), Commander Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) takes the program rogue -- refurbishing old Jaegers and recruiting old pilots. He convinces a reluctant Raleigh to co-pilot the newly-repaired Gipsy Danger, but both Raleigh and his Japanese copilot Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) struggle with their traumatic memories.
In the meantime, Pentecost is planning to somehow drop a nuke into the fissure and close it for good. As the dwindling Jaeger forces are battered by new and stronger kaiju, wacky scientist Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) discovers the horrifying truth behind the kaiju invasion -- and what will happen to the human race if they aren't stopped for good.
"Pacific Rim" does have a decent sci-fi plot about alien monsters attacking the world, but let's not pretend that is the movie's core. The real draw here is watching giant robots punching glowy sea monsters in the face, and then clubbing them with a convenient steel ship. Why? Because Guillermo del Toro is a nerd and loving it.
It also tends to be a bit over-the-top cheesy ("Today we are CANCELING THE APOCALYPSE!"), but del Toro does insert some quieter moments where the characters reflect on the horrors that have propelled them there. And the plot -- yes, there is one -- manages to be both simple and twisty, with a string of unexpected revelations about the kaiju and where they came from.
Admittedly the movie does fall short in some places -- the Russians have about two lines, and I don't think the Chinese triplets had ANY. Also, the comic relief scientists can be a bit grating, especially since they are American and British stereotypes.
However, the other characters aren't -- they're depicted as strong but damaged people, and there are moments where we see them reflecting on how they came there. Elba is powerful and restrained as the noble commander, Hunnam is a solid rugged hero you can root for, and Kikuchi is a lean, quietly intense presence as a young woman whose life was forever changed by the kaiju. And yes, we have Ron Perlman as the weirdest Chinese gangster you will ever see.
If the idea of robots bashing monsters fills your geek heart with glee, "Pacific Rim" is the perfect movie -- its only goal is to entertain you and blow kisses at Japanese entertainment. Definitely worth a watch.