Film review by John Campbell
It felt as though this had already been going for an eternity before the opening credits appeared on screen. Near deafened by the cacophony of mangling metal and million-piece orchestra, I sank into a deep funk, longing for a couple of pre-emptive Panadols.
What sort of megalomaniacal seizure, you can’t help wondering, took hold of Guillermo del Torro to lead him from the haunting beauty of Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone to the brain-dead wastelands of uber-CGI and comic superheroes? The bloke’s genius for fantasy is undeniable but, honestly, how anybody older than 16 can sit through this sort of thing without being overwhelmed by catatonic boredom is beyond me.
Instead of coming from distant galaxies, the aliens here emerge from subterranean vaults at the bottom of the ocean – and they are whoppers. At least 20 storeys high, their mission is to smash and kill all life on Earth, and they are fulfilling it big time. The only things holding the apocalypse at bay are equally massive, manmade robots that are controlled by humans who, connected by dreams and working in pairs, pilot them from within.
Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) is the cool-as-a-cucumber black officer with a mysterious nosebleed, who is in command of the good guys. I had some difficulty telling the two young guns apart until I noticed that the one who was destined to get the drop-dead gorgeous Asian girl had been made up with a smidgen too much pink lippy. An American actor carrying the delightful moniker of Max Martini plays an Aussie whose accent is as folksy as Kevin Rudd’s, and there are a couple of stereotypical puny scientists providing occasional light relief.
The story – romance, sacrifice, loyalty – is straight out of Screenwriting 101, but the effects are superb, if you like that kind of thing. A highlight is when a crew of humans gets inside a dead monster’s body to find that it is pregnant – now that’s a first. I couldn’t hear a thing for two days.