Friday, August 9, 2013

Review: Pacific Rim

I feel this may be me simplifying things a bit but there are few things in this world I love more than giant robots and Japanese monster movies (i.e. “Kaiju”). So when I first heard that Guillermo del Toro was developing a giant robot/kaiju live-action film I’m pretty sure my head exploded (though I might be remembering this wrong). While del Toro isn’t exactly my favorite director he does have a great talent for bringing larger than life/out of this world spectacle onto the big screen and making it believable so I had faith that he was the man for the job, especially considering the way he gushes about the genre. Hearing him in interviews really made him sound like a giant fan, which is good.

Pacific Rim, as the project has since been titled, has been out a short while now and sadly it did not do the business many were expecting in America. It did not bomb and it’s done extremely well in foreign markets to the point that it can be considered a success, but how more people in this country weren’t super jazzed to see giant robots punching the shit out of giant monsters baffles my mind. Seriously, check this out:

Damn, son, if that doesn’t get your blood pumping than you and I can never be friends. Anyway it took me a while to see this flick but almost all my friends who managed to told me that it was a fantastic movie. We’ll see.

Full review after the jump.

Gigantor, eat your heart out!
In 2013 a portal opened in depths of the pacific ocean and a giant monster emerged, laying waste to San Francisco for days until the army eventually (and barely) managed to defeat it. Following the attack a second monster emerged, and later another. The world governments came to together to combat this new threat, called “Kaiju”, by building colossal pilot-able robots called Jaegers. For a while the Jaegers were very effective against the Kaiju but eventually more and more power monsters appeared and more and more loss of life occurred. By 2015 the Jaeger program has been dissolved, but Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), commander of the Jaegers, has one last desperate plan that he hopes will end the war for good. For this he tries to recruit Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam), a former pilot who retired after his brother’s death at the hands of a Kaiju. Even with Becket’s help humanity’s lack of understanding on what the Kaiju are may ensure this final strategy is doomed from the start.

First of all I’d like to briefly talk about the idea that Pacific Rim is a rip-off of the popular anime Neon Genesis Evangelion. While they are similarities I find there’s too many differences in how the piloting works and what the Jaegers can do and what they are compared to Evas (the “robots” from the cartoon) for this to be a true rip-off. That said I’m sure someone in the creative process must have been inspired by the cartoon judging by a lot of imagery, but it’s important to note that NGE is a deconstruction of a genre that this film plays straight so it’d be hard for there not to be comparisons. If they were fighting other robots rather than alien monsters we’d probably call it a Gundam rip-off too (by the way, someone in Hollywood needs to make a live-action film with pilot-able robots other fighting pilot-able robots).

To be fair those are clearly plug suits
Anyway it’s a little difficult to tell whether a live action giant robot will work with having so few attempts made in the West (and almost no attempts in the modern era) but Pacific Rim pulls it off nicely. The Jaegers look awesome! They are some of the coolest things I’ve seen in a Hollywood movie ever. Perhaps unsurprisingly the main Jaeger, Gypsy Danger, is the single coolest thing in this flick but all the Jaeger’s we see in action are still super fun too. They had interesting designs and some of them had really badass weapons. My favorite: The Elbow Rocket. Obviously. The Kaiju are a little less interesting in terms of design but that didn’t bug me too much since in my head I was pretty much here see giant robots being badass. Not that I don’t appreciate giant monsters that look awesome but for what this movie was it was the Jaegers, not the Kaiju, that were the true stars and thus I cared far more about them.

The action with the Jaegers and Kaiju was pretty good and had a lot of old school charm to it that folks in my age range who grew up watching anime and Japanese monster films on the Sci-Fi Channel during the 90s will likely really enjoy. I would only agree with critics who said the action scenes ran in regards to what may have been lost to compensate for it (I’m getting a head of myself) but if there’s one thing this film does pretty damn good it’s the fight scenes. My one complaint in this area is that I wish at least one of the full fight scenes took pace during the day where it’s well lit. All of the major fights take place either at night or areas that are very dark due to the environment and I felt like I wasn’t seeing as much of the battle or the robots being awesome as I wanted to because if that. Should this get a sequel I really hope they add at least one fight at high noon or something.

A Japanese actor in a Hollywood flick playing a sword fighter/martial artist?
What a nice change of pace
The plot is on the weak side, probably due to the fact that the film jumps ahead of a lot of things that take place, taking us right into the action as quickly as possible. Now clearly a lot of people were okay with this but if you like world building you’ll probably be annoyed. For example while researching for this review I came across a ton of backstory and technical information about post-alien attack Earth and the Jaegers that is NEVER once talked about during the film. There’s a lot of interesting and well thought out stuff for this movie that didn’t make it into the film itself for whatever reason. Which means someone f**ked up because any time I have to go looking for information to explain a plot hole in a film outside of viewing said film it’s a serious problem.

A weak plot is forgivable if the characters are good enough since, as I’ve pretty much said all the time since I started this blog, fiction lives and dies by its characters. Pacific Rim’s character aren’t good. They’re not “bad” exactly and the acting is fine for what it is: Elba brings the chops he’s become famous for recently and Charlie Hunnam is nowhere near as mediocre as people have claimed. The problem is they don’t have much to work with here. The characters are just plain not developed nearly enough for me to give a crap about then other than the whole “piloting giant robot” thing, but that’s just not enough. Even if we ignore the fact that most of the supporting cast are just standard archetypes, the Jaeger crews outside the main two barely qualify being named, or that Pentecost’s backstory is right out of the “Mentor Cliché Handbook”, or that Charlie Day is basically just playing his character from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia but as a (dubious) scientist; at the end of the day the two main characters failed to grab my attention. There’s not a lot of character growth from either Raleigh or Mako. Even when they started to go into interesting character stuff it usually got cut off by BIG HOLLYWOOD ACTION before it goes anywhere too complex and by the end it didn’t feel like anyone had grown or learned anything. There’s just not enough time to do more than a token effort here, which is weird to say considering this wasn’t a short movie at all. But most of the time is devoted to BIG HOLLYWOOD ACTION that the room left for plot and characters is pretty low. I didn’t care about Raleigh and I didn’t care about Mako and thus it was difficult to care about their story.

Oh, a three man Jaeger crew? That should provide an interesting dynamic
(Just kidding, guys. They don't do shit)
 That said I did like that Raleigh and Mako were never portrayed as having a romantic relationship. While they become very close there was never an explicit romance between them. I found this very refreshing as it’s pretty rare in Hollywood that there isn’t some instant of romantic tension between two leads in a story like this (and it almost always weakens the female character).

I’m probably going to piss off a lot of my friends by saying this but I thought this was a pretty good movie but by no means was it a great one. Don’t get me wrong; the robots and the action were awesome and there were moments where I was pretty loud in the theater because of it. However no matter how cool your giant robot may be if the characters aren’t interesting and your plot is pretty thin your project will suffer. Had Raleigh and Mako been developed better, and if the story was stronger, this would have easily been the best film of 2013 so far but as it stands it’s just a fun Summer popcorn film that ultimately lacks substance, of which there are currently an abundance of. If you like loud movies, explosions and GIANT ROBOTS than you’ll still enjoy it and maybe even love it but if you’re looking for more than that then you’ll be be disappointed.

And now here's some beefcake for the ladies (and the fellas)
Still, giant robots fighting monsters is always cool. End of story. Observe:

I give Pacific Rim 3 Tequila Gundams out of 5.



-Great action

-No superfluous love story


-Weak plot 

-Weak characters

1 comment:

  1. I've said it before, and I'll say it again:

    A world where Grown Ups 2 prints money, but Pacific Rim barely makes its budget back is a world that deserves to burn in nuclear fire


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