Guillermo Del Toro has honed a skill that few directors—especially in the mainstream studio system—have mustered: He doesn't make movies so much as build worlds. Whether it's the bustling troll marketplace in Hellboy II
or a dark underground realm of child-eating monsters in Pan's Labyrinth
, Del Toro's worlds exist on their own phantasmagorical plane, one where the physics and mechanics of every moving piece are thought out. It's as if the smartest kid on the planet invited you to play in the sandbox in his mind. But what does such meticulous terraforming do for a movie about gigantic robots punching the shit out of gigantic monsters while destroying whole cities? It makes it effing awesome, that’s what, and Pacific Rim
is like getting punched in the face with a fist full of bombastic, childish, escapist bliss. Del Toro tosses his audience into a not-too-distant future where the ocean floor—having apparently read a lot of Lovecraft—has cracked open a portal to another dimension, which keeps sending out snarling, neon-blooded monsters called Kaiju to wreak havoc. Humanity, in turn, has put aside its differences and formed a U.N. of ass-whompery in its army of Jaegers, 25-story-tall human-shaped machines operated by pilots who must link their minds to avoid zapping their brains while fighting. The beauty of Pacific Rim
is that it’s a dumb movie with brilliance lurking in the corners of its robust world, for those who want to observe it. For those who don’t care, there’s a robot beating the shit out of a giant fish-gorilla monster by wielding an oil tanker like a bat: further evidence that Del Toro’s remains the greatest sandbox on the playground.