Friday, July 19, 2013

Welcome to the Shatterdome: Pacific Rim Review

*minor spoilers ahead*

Pacific Rim takes place in a world where giant, alien monsters (Kaiju) war with building sized robots (Jaegers) piloted by a tired human resistance. Oh, and every one of those humans have names like “Stacker Pentecost” and “Herc ‘Hercules’ Hansen”. This war has been going on for a long time, and the tables seem to be turning in the Kaiju's favor.

File:Pacific Rim FilmPoster.jpeg

The film comes at a time when the movie-going public at large have questioned destruction in films. There seems to be a bit of a fatigue when it comes to epic devastation on screen. But the mass destruction in Pacific Rim feels pretty real. People seek shelter from the giant battles and the film makes a point to show some of the deadly aftermath.

Perhaps that’s why the public didn’t react as negatively to the destruction in Pacific Rim as they did to this summer's Man of Steel. Or maybe it’s because the carnage in the movie was better advertised through trailers and TV spots? Or because people accept that it’s more central to the story?

Whatever the reason is, the fights on display are why you see this film. At the end of the day, there’s a lot of cheese and goofiness in Pacific Rim, enough to make you long for the epic battles. But, with a film that has this much sci-fi in it, the goofiness is unavoidable and, perhaps, expected.

One thing that I absolutely loved - as usual - was director Guillermo del Toro’s style. The balance of colorful, neon set design and dark environments. The costumes and suits that the characters wear. There’s a scene at the end of the film that features a few characters out in the middle of the ocean. The scene was gorgeous and looked refreshingly real (whether it was or not, although I suspect that it was) after the non-stop CGI fest.

You’ll definitely need to suspend your disbelief for this film. I mean, duh, it’s giant robots fighting giant monsters, but there’s also a sense that perhaps the techniques, mythology, and “science” in the film wasn’t thought out as well as it should have been. How do characters survive piloting giant Jaegers on their own when it’s clear that they’re supposed to be piloted by two? And how does that “mind meld” technique (known as “The Drift” in the film) work? Why does the film make a big deal out of the fact that that the two pilots need to be compatible, but then turn around and join seemingly random people? Pilots who die while in The Drift supposedly pass their feelings and memories on to their fellow pilots. But how? I suspect that any problems or confusions from the tech in the film are due to the fact that del Toro developed it to such a degree that one two hour film won’t do it justice. In short, I’m sure there’s an answer for most plot holes.

Other than Charlie Hunnam (I was just a little unsure of him...he comes off very swaggery), I loved the cast. Rinko Kikuchi nailed the beautiful/tough/sad role of Mako Mori. Idris "Apocalypse Canceler" Elba was great as usual. Charlie Day was a wonderful mix of crazy/smart. Clifton Collins Jr. was good but looked bizarrely Rob Schnieder-like for most of the film.

Pacific Rim is one of those frustrating films that features leads that - while having good chemistry - never “seal the deal”. Kikuchi’s Mako seems to pine over Hunnam’s Raleigh throughout the film but nothing ever comes of it. I wonder if del Toro held back here because he wants to build more towards the relationship in potential sequels.

To conclude, Pacific Rim features just as much destruction as the next summer tent pole, but its story, direction, design, and cast elevate it beyond that. If you see one “monsters terrorize humanity” film this summer, (the other being Grown Ups 2) make it Pacific Rim.

3.5 Out Of 5 Stars

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