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'Pacific Rim' Is Filled To The Brim With Special Effects


Another movie opening is "Pacific Rim." Critic Kenneth Turan says it has plenty of explosions and special effects, but he says there's actually more to it than most of the other blockbusters this summer.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: A plot where aliens face off against robots may sound like too much of the same old thing. But director Guillermo del Toro is more than a filmmaker. He's a fantasy visionary with an outsized imagination and a fanatical specificity, and the results are spectacular. "Pacific Rim" begins with a fissure between two tectonic plates in the Pacific, opening a portal between dimensions.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: San Francisco has now become a war zone.

TURAN: Strange and awful giant beasts called Kaiju, intent on destroying everything in their path, come up from the depths.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Cutting a three-mile-wide path of destruction through the city of San Francisco.

TURAN: Humans create weaponized robots called Jaegers so huge, it takes two people who can execute a kind of mind-meld called the drift to pilot them.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Initiating neural handshake in 15 seconds.

TURAN: But as the Kaiju change and adapt and become close to unstoppable, the world's best hope turns out to be a ragtag bunch of pilots lead by the ultra-fierce Stacker, played by Idris Elba.


IDRIS ELBA: (as Stacker) Today, at the edge of our hope, at the end of our time, we have chosen not only to believe in ourselves, but in each other.

TURAN: Clearly, we're not talking about subtle readings of the human condition on a par with "The Remembrance of Things Past." "Pacific Rim" is very much set in comic book-pulp science fiction territory. But seeing it on screen will knock you out.

Del Toro is such a visual director, he's known for placing his production office inside the art department. He's made the monsters and the havoc they wreak look real. He's also fussed with thousands of small details to make the film's gritty, dirty world as lived-in as possible. In a summer crowded with meaningless explosions, del Toro is the real deal.

GREENE: You're the real deal, Ken. Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and also for the Los Angeles Times. This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Renee Montagne. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kenneth Turan
Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor.