I went fromm knowing nothing about this movie to being all about it. Seriously.
Back in October or November when the first trailer or teaser was released I wasn't in on it, but all of my twitter stream were about it. Their lives had changed, they all had boners (I happen to follow a lot of dudes... why are their dicks the first thing to respond to stuff??) so I finally decided to watch it to see what the hubbub was was. My interest was piqued.
I liked G Gundam. It's the only Gundam series I watched, but I'm cool with the idea of mecha anime so I was kind of jonsed for it, but as the release date rolled around I did what I always do, I didn't look at anything. I'd kind of forgotten things. i wanted to see it because Idris Elba, mechas (jaeger) and giant monsters (kaiju). In the theater I fell in love with Mako Mori, Charlie Day got a resurgence of love from me, as did Burn Gorman (whose name I always forget. I want to call him Simon, was that his name in Torchwood? I just feel like his name should be Simon...) and Ron Perlman. I was cool with the lead white-dude (Charlie Hunnam), I have a new love for Clifton Collins Jr, but Idris has my fangirl heart is a death grip from his sympathetic squint - fantastic! Also, Black Dude as a lead hero in an action movie like this.
I feel like Ramin Djawadi did a great job with the score, and whoever mixed the music into the movie did a great job of not calling attention to it. One track sounded a little Iron Man-y, but I might have been too into the movie to notice that after a while, but I think it mostly had it's own flavor as a score.
Going back to people of color, since a lot of this movie took place in Hong Kong I loved the global aspect to the cast. There were some Russians, Americans, a lot of English/GB/UK, Australian dudes and a lot of Asians. Many were nameless and filled in crowd scenes, I feel there could have been more women mechanics in those scenes (never enough women in movies but better than most). It fails the Bechdale test but the women are portrayed as being strong even when emotional. Mako has drive, she has her own motivation and agency. The Russian female, we don't get to see her as much as it seems like some people online would have liked to have seen her, but she was also cool. I've heard a rumor that more was filmed and shown the Chinese and Russian pilots than ended up in the movie. I hope it's true and that it ends up on the Blu-Ray/DVD. I also would have liked for there to have been more black people, but it's a condition with me. I like gender and racial diversity.
Addressing the women in the movie, I liked that there's never a glamour shot of them. Mako is shown as being emotional, enraged, confident, enthusiastic and shocked, but there's never a slow pan of her in skimpy or sexual clothes. We get to see Charlie Hunnam like that - twice even - all shirtless and muscular. Fully suited or in their casual clothes Mako and the other woman (I forgot her name, she piloted the Russian Jaeger) aren't reduced to being T&A for the audience. Hell, the movie has the thinnest whisper of a romantic element but it mostly focuses on the fact that these fucking kaiju are trying to tear shit up.
I've been looking at collateral damage in spectacle movies a bit more and paying attention to it more recently. Here the jaeger pilots initially seem to try to avoid fighting the kaiju in the cities and try to save as many lives as possible. I can't imagine how much structural damage has happened over the extended timeline of the movie (there is one major time jump, but kind of 2 because the first 10 minutes set up everything else.) you'd think after battling the kaiju for about 10 years they'd stop building skyscrapers but you need to punch through a building and avoid a Newtons Cradle somewhere.
Some other stuff i liked: there's not time spent explaining the jaegers, at all. The first one was built in 14 months and we're told why they need 2 pilots. No time is extended to how they work, or the mechanics of them. There are some small - not quite throw away- lines about what they're made of, but it's kind of just there was the need and then they were. I don't really care how they work, they exist and they have crazy-mecha magic-weapons. I'm happy at that.
I don't remember who I saw comment on this but it's true, there is more heart than I expected. It is about stopping the kaiju from destroying everything and taking over earth, but there is believable emotion baggage on the main dude, Mako and with Idris Elba. The support scientists played by Day and Gorman both get their moments to be right and wrong and support one another on their wacky side adventure. This movie is about teamwork and supporting people. Countries put aside ages old disputes to defend the planet from an intruder. Each jaeger is piloted by a team, then there are the numerous crews below them keeping them alive.
I think the last thing I'll bring up that I loved it that there was humor. It wasn't so much 'ha ha irony!' it was 'this jaeger is being this kaiju with a ship'. There were some small visual gags, and some humorous quips but it wasn't like Iron Man (especially 3) where they went out of their way to have levity. It was a bit wry, kind of like 'this is our life and if we don't try to laugh a little we'll never stop crying because this is fucked'. I might be explaining it wrong, but I do want to see it again. There are things you pick up on during subsequent viewings of a movie, I want to see those things.
I was so into this movie that when the theater got dark and it got going I was leaning forward the entire time. I didn't need anything to keep my hands entertained, which happens if things feel slow for me. I laughed I cheered, I felt my heart race with the drama and action. I was game for it all. I even told someone to put away their phone and was prepared to fight about it, but he acquiescenced and I was able to just enjoy the movie.
Was it perfect, of course not, but it was really damn good. And I want to see it again. I'm glad I have the art book because the kaiju and jaeger designs are amazing and I just want to look at them and love the people who worked to make them look so fucking cool.
Addendum: July 16
I want to issue an addendum to what I had to say about Pacific Rim because I was letting certain biases I have cloud my ability to accept some things as being different from so many other spectacle movies.
Over the past few days Coelasquid has been arguing against the criticisms that people have had about Mako and Raleigh's characters. She has explained why Mako, a character I liked, was a strong character and more importantly showed how Raleigh isn't a shitty cliche white hero.
That was my bias, I thought he was just a boring white hero-dude because so many movies revolve around the Young-ish White Hero who just comes and and heroes it up everywhere. I did notice and like that he defended Mako and she was never reduced to a Damsel in the movie, or an object. But I thought he was bland because he wasn't an asshole, but it shouldn't be revolutionary for a hero to be a hero to everyone. Many other characters in many other pop culture pieces go through a traumatic experience and fall into depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, sex abuse or whatever self-flagellation the character feels they deserve. Raleigh starts off as a jaeger pilot to be a rockstar but more importantly to help people and even after the accident he's still trying to protect and help people by building the Wall that's supposed to block the kaiju from the American west coast.
Coelasquid, or someone she reblogged said it: Raleigh isn't a brash asshole (Tony Stark, Bruce Wayne), he defends his female partner without seeing her as a sexual object, (Tony Stark, Bruce Wayne, James Kirk, a lot of movies...most movies tbh), and he admits that he's fucked up which is commendable for hero white dudes who are always right (hey there Tony and Bruce! You two are the same dude in so many ways but that's another essay).
I wasn't just not giving Raleigh a chance to be a Good Dude, which he is, I was also too excited to cheer for the characters played by actors I liked. I want to see Idris Elba in more stuff, I liked the comedic dynamic between Charlie Day and Burn Gorman i really want to see their drift slowed down to understand them better, I loved Rinko Kikuchi even before I read her credits and remembered she was in The Brothers Bloom. I was excited for the kaiju and the jaegers and the stronger depictions of characters who so often fall into bad stereotypes that I didn't give the the main character the same joy.
Some of coelasquid's posts and reblogs on Pacific Rim, they're more spoiler-y than what I think I've said and they address why Mako's not a weak character, something I didn't need my mind changed on.