"Pacific Rim" is director Guillermo del Toro's latest sci-fi action epic, and the result is an entertaining battle between huge "Godzilla"-like creatures (called the Kaiju) and ginormous man-made weapon-ized robots (called Jaeger -- "hunter" in German) piloted by human soldiers. As per usual in these movies, the extinction of humanity is a very real possibility if the small circle of brave Jaeger pilots doesn't succeed. There's humor (courtesy of Charlie Day, who plays a Kaiju researcher, and Ron Perlman, who's a fabulously outfitted black-market dealer), romance, and staggeringly massive action sequences, so be prepared to take your tweens and teens to see "Pacific Rim."
But first, here are five questions to consider before taking the kids to see "Pacific Rim."
1. Is your kid freaked out by monsters? If there's one thing director Guillermo del Toro is known for, it's his big, scary creatures ("Pan's Labyrinth" "Hellboy," "Hellboy II'). In "Pacific Rim," del Toro and his special effects team continue the pattern with the giant, horrifying Kaiju (Japanese for "monster"). They're enormous killers that can destroy anyone and anything in their path, with the exception of the few nearly as huge Jaeger robots. The Kaiju make the carnivorous dinosaurs in "Jurassic Park" look like baby man-eating lizards. You know your kid, so if "Godzilla" is his favorite monster, this is a perfect pick, but if the Kaiju will freak them out, "Pacific Rim" might be too much.
2. How sensitive is your child to violence? Needless to say in a movie where massive otherworldly creatures are destroying humanity, there is definitely a noteworthy body count in "Pacific Rim." Not only are people in the Kaiju's path crushed, but several characters are killed or sacrifice themselves "Armageddon"/"Deep Impact" style to save the world. Major landmarks are obliterated, like when San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge is leveled. People die -- lots of people die, and one is even eaten "Jurassic Park" style – chomp, chomp.
3. Do you worry about sex/language? I feel like a broken record at this point in the summer, but "Pacific Rim" is yet another big-budget PG-13 action film with very little romance -- which is a good thing for parents hoping to take their mature tweens/young teens. There is, however, a whole lot of hilariously obvious, lingering looks between Mako and Raleigh, as well as a sparring session filled with sexual tension and heavy breathing. But even all those little moments of heated flirting and gazing don't lead to more than a climactic embrace. The language is pretty tame, as well, although there's the occasional curse or two.
4. Who should go see "Pacific Rim"? Reviews are mostly positive, and there's a good chance if one of your kids is over 10 and into the "Transformers" meets "Godzilla" premise, you will be asked to see this (or provide movie ticket money) again and again. "Boston Globe" critic Ty Burr calls "Pacific Rim" "a titanic sci-fi action fantasy that has been invested, against all expectations, with a heart, a brain, and something approximating a soul." Older kids who can handle the giant monster on soldier-controlled robot violence will probably think del Toro's futuristic action flick is awesome.
5. How does "Pacific Rim" compare to similar movies? It's a war meets end of times movie, but also an alien invasion story. The natural disaster movies come to mind, because everyone's scrambling to defeat something unexplained and seemingly unknowable. The Jaegers are part "Transformers" but also part "Avatar," because the two pilots who control them have a mind-mend (called a "drift") to operate their super robot. The action sequences are immense, and the fighting between the Jaeger and the Kaiju is reminiscent of that crazy intense sequence between King Kong and the T-Rex in Peter Jackson's "King Kong."