Whether or not it sounds like damning the film with faint praise, the greatest virtue of Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim may be that you can always understand what’s happening, what the characters are doing, and why they are doing it. After what seems like years of convoluted megamovies whose pretzel-like twists, turns, and double-crosses confound logic and confuse audiences, it’s incredibly refreshing to watch a film where the setup is simple, the mythology straightforward, and the execution consistently clear.

Working on his biggest canvas to date, the director of Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth introduces an entirely new world to audiences with a robots-versus-monsters scenario that includes the same sort of nerdy details and sci-fi jargon as its overcomplicated brethren, but under del Toro it all makes sense — and even better, he makes us care about it.