Giant Robots versus Giant Monsters… What could go wrong with a movie like that? Potentially everything, making it one of the biggest flops of the year. Or potentially nothing, making it the most fun you'll have had in the cinema in quite some time. That was the main appeal of Pacific Rim; it could only be amazing or awful, there was no room for averageness in this equation. Which makes it all the more heart-breaking when the end product turns out to be so middling.
The "don't ask too many questions" plot informs us that a trans-dimensional rift has opened at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, allowing Kaiju (aka giant aliens) to invade Earth and pretty much flatten any city unfortunate enough to share a coastline with the largest body of water on the planet. In retaliation, the governments of the world combined their efforts to create the Jaegers (aka giant robots) to kick seven shades of extra-terrestrial shite out of them. Unfortunately this is a war that the humans are losing, so bad-ass army-guy Idris Elba rallies all of the remaining Jaeger pilots (including Charlie Hunnam and Rink Kikuchi) and some top scientists (including Charlie Day and Clifton Collins Jrn) in a last ditch effort to rid their planet of these ginormous beasties once and for all.
Simple. Basic. Effective. Except that Pacific Rim then trips up over itself trying to complicate matters with its "Neural Handshake", a type of mind-meld that the Jaeger co-pilots must go through, sharing each other's deepest, darkest memories, and allowing them to work together harmoniously and simultaneously. The problem is that this asks for you to care about these people, and that's something that simply cannot be done. The script is a mixed-bag of clichéd one-liners, spouted by just-as-clichéd characters. When folk start dying off, you'll be hard pressed to remember who they were two minutes later.
However if you can see passed these shortcomings, you will find one of the most epically scaled, visually astounding blockbusters ever made. When the huge fights do arrive, the level of intricate detail and city-levelling dynamism puts the "stuff explodes" finale of Man Of Steel to shame. There is a solid hour of full on science fiction action here that is simply not to be missed.
It's just unfortunate that the other hour of the movie tries SO hard to be earnest, vitally missing the playful tone of Independence Day or the knowing humour of Starship Troopers. It's ironic that for a movie that hammers home the point of a necessary emotional connection to survive, Pacific Rim almost completely forgets to make that connection with the audience.