This is one of those films that I both really wanted to see, but I also really didn't want to see. I know that sounds like I could very well be cybil, but I'm not. (Oh, yes, he is, and I can prove it!) I think the biggest reason I wanted to see it was because of my fondest for anime and the mecha genre. THE BIG O, NEON GENESIS EVANGELION, the MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM franchise, GURREN LAGANN, EUREKA SEVEN, CODE GEASS, ESCAFLOWNE, GARGANTIA ON THE VERDUOUS PLANET, VALVRAVE THE LIBERATOR, and so on and so on. Plus there's TRANSFORMERS, MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS, THE IRON GIANT, and SUPER SENTAI.
I think robots are cool, okay? Robots fighting inter-dimensional monsters or aliens or modified human beings are even cooler.
However, the classic movie fan side of my brain figured that the movie would probably be incredibly stupid with a terrible no named cast. So I ended up not seeing the film in theaters.
The temptation was too great to not see the movie, though. So I did so on blu-ray.
At an intimidating 131 minutes runtime, I'd say it's worth it. Very much so. If you approach it in the right mindset, that is. First of all, and this really does need to be stressed, this movie is about big robots fighting big aliens with enough buildings being destroyed to make the climax of MAN OF STEEL look like an underachiever. Characterization, depth of story, and all that... Yeah, don't even bother. You're watching this because of the fights just like you might watch a Jackie Chan movie for the fights.
With the exception of Ron Perlman (he doesn't even appear in the first hour so don't even watch it just because he's in it... if you are one of those weird people like me who only watch certain movies because of certain actors), I couldn't tell you the name of a single person in this movie. I suppose a lot of them are adequate actors and such, but they didn't really show that in this movie. After the epic fight in the first fifteen minutes of the movie, the next forty-five minutes are all about the characters and that's definitely not the strength of this movie. And it shouldn't be any surprise at all that the Japanese lady ends up being the main character's co-pilot. Of course, it's the only Japanese character in the movie, right?
The movie becomes sort of a waiting game for the next big fight during the characterization period. But once the final hour arrives we finally get some serious mecha vs. monster action. After all the mecha anime I've seen, I can say without a doubt that this movie doesn't exactly break any new ground. In fact, the part about "the Drift" just screams of the ghosts of anime past. The look of the Gypsy Danger is a lot like a fusion between METROID and NEON GENESIS EVANGELION. Look at these pictures and tell me I'm wrong.
The action is really good, though. Unlike Michael Bay's TRANSFORMERS movies, the fights are actually intelligible and well-choreographed. It actually feels like I'm watching an epic battle instead of being subjected to shaky-camera movement that tries to assume I know an epic fight is going on. Had the pesky humans in this movie been given smaller roles (or the parts given to much better actors) with better dialog then this movie would be a lot better.
But the action does bring this movie way up because the special effects really are fantastic. It's no MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM SEED or NEON GENESIS EVANGELION, but it's the closest to a live action adaptation of a mecha anime there has been (whether or not del Toro says that was his intention is beside the point). Again, the acting sucks and the characters are kinda vanilla, but if you can just get through that then you'll be rewarded with some serious mecha action.