This is the big monster movie of our time. At least until Legendary releases the new Godzilla next year.
For me, this film worked on a ton of different levels. The level of detail in the monsters (Kaiju) and Robots (Jeagers) was just amazing. There is a lot of real thought gone into their designs, how they move, and how they work. The scale was also well done, making the Kaiju and Jeagers building-sized, but not overly so.
There are a lot of giant monsters vs. robots that have come before this. In movies, television series, anime and manga. Pacific Rim seems to pay homage to all of them by not screwing up. Granted, it was in the hands of Guillermo Del Toro so there really wasn't a lot of worry to begin with.
The Monsters: The Kaiju are alien monsters from another dimension, given codenames based on their appearance and category status upon sighting based on their size and weight.
Pictured: Knifehead, Category 3
The Kaiju forms are all based on actual animals, with modifications to include physical weaponry and to account for some alien morphology. So the monsters are believable because even though they're giant and alien, we still get that sense of familiarity with them. We find out more about them as the movie progresses, but I'm going to do my best here not to leave any real spoilers.
The robots: The Jeagers are giant robots we built to take the fight directly to the Kaiju. As expected, there are several classes, based on their power source, technological advancement and when they were built. Each country builds their own, the appearance reflecting its country of origin.
Pictured: Striker Eureka, Class 5, Australia
The Story: The story is very familiar if you're a fan of anime, as there are honestly just so many ideas to come up with to make giant monsters and robots fight each other. One is the invader, the other is playing defense. There are several aspects which make the story behind Pacific Rim fairly unique though. One of these is Drifting, which is how the pilots work the Jeagers. It also takes two pilots per robot, creating a left side / right side brain dynamic. There is also an idea that the Kaiju are evolving, learning our strategies and getting stronger than the Jeagers we've made so far.
I would say 95% of the movie is pure awesome, unless you're a romance only movie-goer. The only real complaint I have, is that there are several attempts at humor in the movie which do nothing more than cause irritation at the break in action. One scene in particular, in the middle of a fight no less, involves a Jeager's arm punching into an office building. The camera follows the fist in until it finally reaches full extension and stops, just touching someone's desk just lightly enough to set his Newton's Cradle in motion. Then the arm withdraws, and we go back to the fight. Fifteen seconds of screen time that nobody would miss. The need for tension-breakers in some movies is very strong, but you expect them more in horror and thrillers, not in-your-face action movies.
One of these if you don't know what a Newton's Cradle is.
Overall, it's an awesome movie and bodes very well for fans of the giant monster genre. The company that made Pacific Rim, Legendary Entertainment, is also currently working on a new version of Godzilla, due out next year, and rumor has it that a script for Pacific Rim 2 is already in the works. Looks like a bad time to live in a major city, and a great time for lovers of destruction.