Parents' questions about Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim have been amusing."Is it Transformers?" "Is it Godzilla?" "Is it Transformers versus Godzilla?"
Yes. And no. And both! Sort of.
Del Toro's selling point behind the behemoth blockbuster is that it delivers the most epic monsters-versus-robots thriller one can possibly see on the big screen. And Pacific Rim absolutely needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible – IMAX, or bigger (if that's even a thing). But is it right for your kids? For the first hour, I honestly believed that I'd share Rim with my nine year old, wanting him to experience the visual ecstasy of del Toro's digital creations. Then something changed. I'll explain below.
For now, let's figure out when you can watch Pacific Rim with your kids.
Green Lights: "Fortune favors the brave, dude!"
Several critics, when describing Pacific Rim, mention how it is the visual re-creation of a 12-year-old's imagination, with massive robots smashing reptilian Kaiju over the heads in battles meant to protect our planet's largest cities.
The greenest light for Pacific Rim, obviously, is its battle sequences. In my opinion, this is the best summer blockbuster that I've seen this year in terms of the scale and execution of eye-popping visual spectacle. If your imaginative kid digs robots, monsters or both, he or she is going to devour Pacific Rim:
Kids will see things in Pacific Rim they've probably never seen on-screen before. Set in a distant future, where humanity creates skyscraper-sized robots to defend our cities from evolving creatures, Rim shows us epic battles, whizzes through B-movie science, and offers cardboard-thin heroes who rise to the challenge of defending our world. Cheesy? You bet. But it's also a ton of fun.
And for a huge chunk of Rim, I thought that the PG-13 movie would be cool for my oldest son (who is a mature nine). How, as a movie-loving dad, could I prevent him from seeing such wizardry on-screen… on such an epic scale?
But one or two things give me reservation with Rim, and I'll dig into them in the Red Flags section.
Red Flags: "We're not an army anymore. We're the resistance."
There's an inherent glee that comes with seeing robots smashing monsters in the face – a visceral release of cheering on global teams who are standing up to a worldwide threat and triumphing (all with Ramin Djawadi's heroic score pumping in the background).
But there's also a terrifying chill that comes with seeing recognizable cities, like San Francisco and Hong Kong, destroyed by towering creatures who emerge from our seas. Rim, obviously, is science fiction painted on a broad canvas. But one or two scenes – particularly an attack on the young Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) that results in the death of her family – push the horror aspect of del Toro's creature feature to a borderline dangerous area. These scenes make me hesitant to bring my nine year old to Rim, realizing that this large-scale devastation might actually disturb him, even though he likely knows that it's Hollywood fiction.
And the last thing that stood out was the language. Now, this is a PG-13 movie. And language doesn't bother some parents. But "ass," "bitch," "bastard," "s**tstorm" and more fly from the mouths of Ron Perlman and Charlie Hunnam during the movie's battle sequences. Then again, your young one's brain might have been melted by all of the geek-loving special-effects madness happening on-screen to even notice that some objectionable words are being tossed out.
Pacific Rim probably plays it safe enough for kids age 10 or 11 and up to go and be dazzled by this summer's most impressive special effects. There's more at stake here than in Iron Man 3 or The Lone Ranger – films that appealed to younger kids and families this season. And the effects really are top of the line. You haven't seen action sequences as amazing as this all season.
But the Kaiju creatures who attack our cities can be terrifying (if your kid is prone to believing something like this might actually happen one day), and while there isn't much gross-out blood and guts to the violence, cities are destroyed and a young girl is put in harm's way in a disturbing scene. Still, if your kids play in their own imaginations with robots and creatures in the safety of their own homes, then it's probably OK for you to introduce them to Guillermo del Toro's amplified imagination, which paints the IMAX screen with eye-popping, stimulating creature fun.
As always, if you do take your kids to the movie, please let me know how it goes!
If you'd like to read previous entries in the "When Can I Watch That with My Kids?" series, click right here. Some of the films covered: Star Wars, Back to the Future, The Goonies, Hugo, The Princess Bride, The Monster Squad and Elf, to name just a few.