While it's still unclear how Pacific Rim is going to do at the box office, it already is getting one thing Disney's major flop The Lone Ranger never had: good reviews. The first critics to file reviews have seemingly fallen for Guillermo Del Toro's film—which is essentially a tale of monsters vs. robots—crediting his inventive passion for his subject matter. The positive reviews do not necessarily spell financial success, but could get the non-fanboy crowd into seats.
Though the film does traffic in some fairly old tropes (bit Godzilla-esque monsters, for one), the fact that it isn't based on an already existing franchise gives it a critical leg up. "At first, watching Pacific Rim feels like rediscovering a favourite childhood cartoon – but del Toro has flooded the project with such affection and artistry that, rather than smiling nostalgically, you find yourself enchanted all over again," Tim Robey writes in The Telegraph. "The twist is that for once, here is a blockbuster that is not based on a cartoon, comic book, or anything else: it sprung from an idea by Travis Beacham, the film’s screenwriter, and then came to fruition in del Toro’s fecund brain." Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter calls it "paradoxically derivative yet imaginative sci-fi epic."
That imagination belongs to Del Toro, the man who brought us the eye-popping Pan's Labyrinth, and that fact is not insignificant. Drew McWeeny at Hitfix writes: "You can practically hear Guillermo Del Toro sitting just out of camera range and cackling at this big, beautiful, weird-as-hell thrill ride. Whatever happens with the film when it opens, this is what Del Toro's heart looks like if you were to cut it open and lay it out for inspection." Del Toro has the power to invite us into a world and make us want to stay, according to Todd Gilchrist of The Verge. Part of the director's power resides in his ability to create stirring images. "Pacific Rim breaks free from the shackles of reported production issues and a colossal budget through the sheer enjoyment of witnessing the simple battle between good and evil unfold in such a glorious and immersive visual style, laden with beautiful imagery," Ben Rawson-Jones at DigitalSpy explains.
But, we should note, not everyone is enamored with the movie. Justin Chang at Variety called the film the "squarest, clunkiest and certainly loudest" of Del Toro's career, and Andrew Pulver at The Guardian laments the unsatisfying human element of the story.
As A.O. Scott wrote on Twitter yesterday, critics are not responsible for the box office failure of a movie, but the positive reception can't hurt Pacific Rim's chances. The film has undergone a marketing barrage, but, so far, excitement for the movie seems mostly relegated to the fanboy community. Still, for now, things are looking up for the nearly $200 million film, which will undoubtedly have an audience overseas and would have to lose around $150 million to be as big of a flop as The Lone Ranger. And with this positive, albeit early, critical reception, Warner Bros. at least knows one reassuring thing: Kanye isn't the only one who likes their movie.