July 12, 2013 at 8:22 AM ET
Monsters fighting gargantuan robots, 3D, and a big budget full of special effects; what more could a comic-loving, sci-fi film fan want from a summer tentpole? In the case of the highly anticipated "Pacific Rim," the studios behind the film hope all of that is enough to send the Guillermo del Toro-directed thriller to the top of the box office.
And "Pacific Rim" pretty much delivers. Epic battles (best viewed on IMAX 3D — the extra ticket cost is worth it) and incredible special effects make the audience feel like it's part of the action every step of the way.
All of that action did, however, set the filmmakers back about $180 million, even while relying on actors to carry the film who are only really well known from the small screen. Fans of "Sons of Anarchy" will recognize Charlie Hunnam, there's also Idris Elba of "The Wire," Charlie Day of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" fame, and Rinko Kickuchi who does have some notable film experience — she was nominated for an Oscar for "Babel." Look for a small but memorable performance by Ron Perlman that requires you to stay for the credits.
It all goes down in a post-apocalyptic world where Kaiju, moonstruck creatures (in Japanese, the word literally translates to "strange beast") that rose from the sea, are at war with humans who build massive human-powered robots called Jaegers to try to save what's left.
As great as the effects may be, there are also plenty of details, big and small, that will make you feel like you’ve been there, done that. Not that there’s anything wrong with paying homage to the classics. Here are 11 movies we recognize in "Pacific Rim":
"Pacific Rim’s" most obvious influence is the movie with the most famous Kaiju. Godzilla emerged from the sea and attacked Tokyo. "Pacific Rim" is chock full of ferocious Kaijus with cool code names like "Knifehead" and "Leatherback." They are also sea creatures and they have destroyed most of the world.
"Clash of the Titans"
According to Warner Bros. Pictures’ production notes, the Kaijus were inspired by lizards, crustaceans and insects. But Perseus from “Clash of the Titans” might disagree; they really resemble the Kraken.
Giant robot aliens came to earth to protect it from other robot villains and save humanity from certain destruction. In “Pacific Rim” bigger weaponized robots (the Jaegers) —25 stories tall— try to save the world.
The Marvel Comics superhero is a man-powered, human-size robot. Jaegers are man-powered giant robots whose armor could be considered scaled-up redesigns of Tony Stark’s. Iron Man’s Arc Reactor keeps shards of metal from going into his heart. On “Pacific Rim,” a similar circular chest piece serves as a turbo booster for the Gypsy Danger Jaeger, the only analog robot left to save the world.
Remember the walking forklift Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) used to fight the queen beast? “Pacific Rim” takes the robotic exoskeleton of Ripley’s Power Loader to new heights through the bio-interface of the Titanic Jaegers. Another similarity: the use of acid generated by the deadly alien creatures, whether it's through the blood of the xenomorphs in the “Aliens” triology or the venomous spitting of a Kaiju in “Pacific Rim.”
Neural connections that lead to mental fusion between two brains called “The Drift” are the new Vulcan mind melds. Two Jaeger pilots must meld with success, creating a "neural bridge," in order to fight off the Kaijus.
The gritty, rainy worlds of Shatterdome and surrounding Hong Kong in “Pacific Rim” create the same mood as set forth in the '80s cult classic, which was set in Los Angeles in 2019.
To find out if two Jaeger pilots are “Drift” compatible, they must duel. A martial arts training sequence between Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) and Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) evokes the famous dojo scene between Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Neo (Keanu Reeves). Also, the city of Zion has the post-apocalyptic industrial futuristic feel of “Pacific Rim’s” Shatterdome.
In the beginning of “Pacific Rim,” Raleigh and his brother don armor that resembles Storm Trooper uniforms. Later, just like Luke Skywalker fired warheads into a shaft to destroy the Death Star from the inside, Raleigh plunges down a vortex to collapse the portal that allows the Kaiju to enter our earthly dimension.
Although the black marketeers in “Pacific Rim” are human-size when they enter the body of an enormous Kaiju to harvest valuable organs, you will be reminded of the miniaturized Dennis Quaid traveling through Martin Short’s body in “Innerspace.”
The super-size Japanese pop culture hero that battles super-sized monsters just like Raleigh and his Jaegers in “Pacific Rim.” Time will tell if Raleigh can follow in this superhero’s footsteps and become a pop culture phenomenon.