This film is a love letter to both the daikaiju film genre (Godzilla 1954 et al.) and the giant mecha manga/anime genre (Gundam, Macross, Robotech, Evangelion, etc.). The plot is simple (humans build giant robots to fight off giant monsters), the dialogue is sparse, and (expected for the genre) physics does not ensue, but the film is far from the "dumb action movie" that some have dismissed it as. The meat of the movie is in the visuals, and I don't (just) mean the special effects; character establishment happens in brief glances and body language, and the story moves forward in unexplained jumbled images that put you in the shoes of the confused characters. Sure, on one level, there's the spectacle of 25-story-tall robots firing arm-mounted plasma cannons at rampaging city-destroying aliens. But the film is deeply focused on the characters and the ties that bind them, on the things that drive one human to protect another. A rarity for a Hollywood film: there are no romantic subplots to be found, despite a female protagonist who develops a strong bond with a male protagonist... a male whom she finds attractive, no less. The movie is perfectly content to leave their bond ambiguously in the realm of close-as-kin friendship. In short: man, I love this movie. It's probably not going to be a masterpiece remembered for decades to come (Hunnam is "meh", Day and Gorman are "huh?", the Crimson Typhoon pilots are "who?", Elba is great but gets a dumb Independence Day speech). But it's solid, and maybe even the best thing coming out this year. Go see it. Score: 4 stars out of 4.
P.S.: It's a shame this movie wasn't made 10 years ago. Against the schlocky backdrop of recent cinema, any film that can be summarized as "giant robots punch things" or "giant monsters destroy things" is going to turn off a lot of people. And the fact that this movie is boldly hopeful and sincere, in an era when "grimdark" and "bitterly cynical" are considered the hallmarks of maturity, is going to turn people off even more. Screw that. As I've mentioned before, I don't generally see movies in theaters unless my friends drag me... but the buzz I'd heard about Pacific Rim got me excited, I went to see it, and (minor miracle here) I walked out of the theater with a big damn smile on my face, totally satisfied with what I saw. Huzzah.
Refs: The Visual Intelligence of Pacific Rim (Sam Keeper); Simple Does Not Equal Dumb, and Other Assorted Thoughts on Pacific Rim (Karin L. Kross)