Pacific Rim

Property Damage: The Movie
"To fight monsters we created monsters."

Heyo everyone! Posting a little bit later than usual, but I didn't want to write my review for Pacific Rim half asleep, so here it is now! Pacific Rim (if you've been hiding from summer movie news) is about giant monsters dubbed Kaiju, which appear out of a rift under the ocean (as in a rift in space, like a portal, not just a hole) called the breach and then rise to annihilate all of mankind. To combat this coming monster-fueled end time, the world's governments all work together to create the Jaegers, enormous man operated mecha that have the size and weaponry to blow up Kaiju. Also in the process to cause considerable volumes of property damage, which they do, for the duration of the film. That isn't really anything that people are worrying about though, because they're too busy worrying about the towering reptilian monsters trying to kill them. The plot's human element focuses around Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam, who appeared in my review of Deadfall) a former Jaeger ace who stopped piloting after his brother was killed. Raleigh is called back into action by Stacker Pentacost (Idris Elba, notably he was Heimdall in Thor) to assist in one final desperate attempt to close the breach. This situation is complicated in many ways: the united world governments have cut funding to the Jaeger program, leaving only four functioning. In addition Kaiju attacks are increasing in frequency and the Kajiu coming through are larger and adapted for combat against Jaegers. Add in Raleigh's own attempts to cope with the death of his brother, and his new co-pilot Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) trying to deal with her own issues, and shit looks pretty bad for the world.

A face only a mother could love. From Hell.
Which makes a great backdrop for an exciting movie. To explain a little more, the Jaeger's neural control system is so complex, that it takes two people to pilot it without dying. To accomplish this, the mecha utilize a mental 'drift' which allows the two pilots to partially merge minds and act in synchrony. You can imagine then, that Raleigh was pretty messed up by watching his brother die, while he was still mind linked to him. It seems bad right? There's also this situation where you can get lost in your own memories while you drift, which happens briefly to Mako, and then she almost blows up the whole hangar with a plasma blast from her Jaeger. Whoops. 

I want one of these, like right the hell now.
The whole "people coming together to overcome threats that they couldn't alone" theme is really heavy in this movie, and that is thematically appropriate, for a movie that is paying serious homage to the whole Kaiju-sub genre of monster movie (Kaiju meaning the mostly Japanese 'giant monster' movies, which is how the word is usually used. It literally means something like "strange creature"). Throughout the movie we see instances of conflicting emotions and personalities, being set aside to overcome a threat to everyone. The theme is constantly present, but at the same time I rarely felt that it was heavy handed. Some people have suggested the movie is kind of cheesy in terms of its plot but I honestly didn't really get that. I thought that it was a sleek attempt to modernize a very cheesy genre, that saw its heyday a long time ago. In particular, while the plot is definitely still sci-fi lite, it at least makes a passing attempt at explaining the situation, and setting the scene sufficiently so you can suspend your disbelief and enjoy the giant battles.

So majestic, also big enough to walk in the ocean.
So how about those giant battles? Asked about his intentions for the movie, director Guillermo Del Toro stated that he wanted to introduce mecha and Kaiju style movies to a new generation. He wanted a movie that he described as "madly in love with the genre" but without making direct reference to previous works. I thought that he really succeeded in that regard, as while the movie did not specifically put in some wink to like, Godzilla or Gamera, it was clear that the film was made by someone who had watched plenty of Kaiju and mecha films, loved them, and knew what he was about. As a serious enthusiast of both, and especially mecha, I really appreciated the design of the Jaegers, and the inventive designs of the Kaiju, and their specific quirks. The battles in the movie did really have the grand scale and scope of an old Kaiju movie, only with a superior sense of gravitas and obviously spectacular visuals. I have read complaints that most of the movies battles take place at night, but I think that is just someone searching for an excuse to complain. The battles are at night, but the scenes are plenty well lit so you can see what's happening. The rainy night setting just adds atmosphere to the tense battles taking place.

Look at those cool suits they get too. Super jealous.
The supporting cast also includes Ron Perlman, who plays the very dubious character Hannibal Chau, and also Charlie Day (best known for playing Charlie on It's Always Sunny in Philidelphia) who plays a scientist who studies Kaiju. The sort of B-plot that merges with the main at the end of the movie involving Day and Perlman serves as an excellent counterbalance for the massive battles of the A-plot, injecting some humor while still serving the overall structure of the movie. In general I liked Del Toro's treatment of his characters, including his treatment of Mako for the MOST part, though it did seem like the male characters were all trying to protect her (though granted one of them was basically her dad, so that seems rather apt).

A lot of my friends are hoping for a sequel, and that would be pretty great but I just don't see it happening. Pacific Rim was produced on a 190 million dollar budget, and while it has grossed 90 million so far worldwide (in a little less than a week) it debuted at 3rd this weekend behind Despicable Me 2 and god help us Grown Ups 2. So while it could pick up steam rather than lose it, Pacific Rim is off to a weak start in the box office. I hope it turns around because I'd love to see another Kaiju film of this calibur, but I'm trying not to get my hopes up.

That's it for today! Join me again on Thursday, when I will review a movie with fewer robots (maybe).

1 comment:

  1. Character-development may blow, but at least the action is thrilling enough to hold you over. Nice review JB.


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