'Pacific Rim' Punches Monsters/Science in the Face


A Kaiju attacks. Legendary/Warner Bros.

I caught Guillermo del Toro's "Pacific Rim" over the weekend and, first and foremost, it's a film that completely delivers on its promises. I think New York Times film critic A.O. Scott summed it up pretty nicely in his review:

"And who does not delight in seeing a robot punch a dinosaur every now and then - or pretty much constantly for two hours?"

Indeed. For someone who grew up watching Godzilla movies on TBS and then Gamera flicks on "Mystery Science Theater 3000," the film made for a wonderful, action-packed nostalgia ride of giant movie monster thrills. There are plenty of summer blockbuster, save-the-world cliches to go around, but "Pacific Rim" made me care far more about the human characters than I expected to -- and I even wound up rooting for mechs over monsters.

Plus, del Toro always delivers a festival of visual wonders in his pictures, so the titanic Kaiju are all beautiful in their monstrosity -- and of course we get to know them inside and out. The kaiju meat black markets take us on a grisly necropsical journey through the alien guts and I reveled in every minute of it.

From the over-the-top thrills of limb-chopping Jaeger swords to the more subtle wonders of Kaiju cults, "Pacific Rim" keeps you entertained the whole way through -- provided you're the sort of person who's into the idea of a two-hour kaiju movie to begin with.

The Science of 'Pacific Rim?'

But I know what you're thinking, "Hey, what about the science in 'Pacific Rim?'"

Well, I should probably remind you we're discussing a movie in which a giant lizard grapples a giant mechanoid in a bear hold. While the film flirts with some hard science here in there when discussing the science of mind melds or the amount of phosphorus in Kaiju poop, you're better off hitting the dimmer switch on your brain for this one.

As Physicist Rhett Allain points out in his Wired article, eight puny helicopters would not be able to carry a Jaeger out to sea -- not unless its engines are 1,000 times more powerful than they are in reality.

Oh, and the film also takes a big Kaiju dump on the fossil record by telling us how the dinosaurs came from another dimension.

You just have to let such issues go with a film like "Pacific Rim" -- along with quandaries over why there wasn't any air support, why they didn't blast the monsters with guns sooner or why a giant, badass sword is a weapon of last resort.

Edit: Go read PopSci's article "We Don't Need No Stinkin' Robots: How the Pentagon Could Destroy All Monsters" for more on the airstrike argument.

I'm just glad del Toro was able to work in yet another obligatory reference to Christ's spear wound -- in a movie about giant monsters.


About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.