Friday, July 12, 2013

Pacific Rim

In the past there have been monster movies, fighting robot movies, and action movies that dabble in between, but I'm not sure that any movie has gone for the whole shebang quite as well as Guillermo Del Toro's Pacific Rim.  I was initially excited for this film for several reasons, and none of them have to do with me being an exceptional fan of either of the first two categories mentioned above.  First and foremost, as I think with most people who were truly excited for this film, it was the director attached.  Del Toro is one of the few directors for whom the term "visionary" can't be used often enough. He and his team are usually able to put such visceral and palpable effects on the screen, that, even if you want to, you can't look away (see the creepy underground lair king in Pan's Labyrinth for more clarification on this phenomena).  The second reason being that, well, it's summer and I just wanted my friggin' blockbuster, all right?  Is that too much to ask for July?!  Luckily, Pacific Rim didn't disappoint me in either of those respects.
From the trailer and tv spots, you can pretty much gain a decent bit of knowledge about the premise and scale of Pacific Rim.  It's a giant movie about giant robots and giant monsters duking it out for the fate of humanity.  You know, in general, the way disaster/apocalyptic movies always start out.  In this newly conceived future, the aliens, well they're already here, but there's a twist.  The shifting tectonic plates and resulting fissures in the Pacific Ocean serve as a bridge between our dimension and theirs.  Using this bridge massive Kaiju (the monsters) appear on land and destroy major cities along both coastlines the Pacific.  Once the humans realize that these attacks will not stop, a defensive effort known as the Jaeger program is launched.  Jaegers are essentially giant robots piloted by two human beings.   In order to best interact with the robot, the humans neural pathways are uploaded so that the robot and humans "think" the same things at the same time.  Because of this intense mental connection, it's important to have someone in the other pilot seat that you trust.  The "science" of the film is given slightly more exposition in the film, but not much.  I'll explain why I'm ok with that later.
The main story picks up just as the Kaiju attacks are beginning to escalate.  The Jaeger program is failing and most of the bots have been destroyed by Kaiju who suddenly have their numbers.  The humans are losing again and the program is about to have the proverbial nuclear heart pulled out of it.  In a last ditch effort, Stacker Pentecost-wink, wink-(Idris Elba) a military Marshal and leader of the Jaeger initiative is determined to get the gang back together for one last Kaiju Killfest, with their remaining four Jaegers.  Along the way he picks up Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam, whose character may or may not be named for this guy) a former hotshot Jaeger pilot whose life hasn't fully recovered from a disaster in battle and Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) a rookie who just wants a shot at vengeance.  There's also a father/son Jaeger team, Hercules and Chuck Hansen-seriously!-(Max Martini and Rob Kazinsky) one of whose character bears a striking resemblance to a certain pre-middle-aged Val Kilmer character. Rounding out the Final Four are a Chinese trio and a Russian duo straight out of Rocky IV.  This rag tag band of misfits, with the hopeless odds, set up shop in Hong Kong to wage their final stand.  With the help of a PHD duo named Newt- DUH! only his mother calls him doctor- and Gottlieb (Charlie Day and Burn Gorman respectively), they plan out the best way to make their last attack count.  Still, it gets better.  The final cherry on top of this behemoth sundae is Ron Pearlman's Hannibal Chow.  It's honestly impossible to get any better than that.  Suffice it to say that the next 90 minutes are basically chock-a-block full of training montages, underwater battles, and land fights that include the use of a shipping vessel as a club.  It's wondrous.
The movie does a lot right.  Visually, it's beyond impressive.  You only have to buy in to the premise enough to get lost in the visuals.  As much as the story tries to keep reminding you that this story is about humans, the ID part of your brain continually says "yeah, but let's get back to gigantic robots and sea monsters!"  It fulfills every base need one should have going in to a blockbuster movie.  I also always find that a movie works best, or at least I prefer movies, that don't pretend to be something they're not.  This never attempts to get cerebral, because it knows you're here for the city-leveling fights and visual fulfillment.  It gives you what you need and then, before you can even ask, "please, sir, may I have some more?" it gives you a second and third helping.  Why the visual pummeling works for me here and not in other movies, I can't explain.  Maybe I just want to like Guillermo Del Toro more because he seems like a guy who I would like to hug on a regular basis.  Maybe there's enough original story, combined with elements of some of the classic blockbusters of the past, that I give it a pass and accept the winking nods to great aspects of movies past as the work of a guy who seems like he's just a fanboy himself, and therefore, more relatable. Like I said, I just don't know.
There are some relatively cheesy moments too.  The characters are rarely more than skin deep, with the exception of the welcomed revelation of a paternal relationship between the stoic Pentecost and the rookie Mako. The archetypes are so clearly drawn that sometimes it seems like they were cut like paper dolls, but, honestly, this is what I signed up for. Ron Pearlman and the science duo of Charlie Day and Burn Gorman especially seem to revel in their eccentricities, and you can't help but look forward to their screen time.
It recalls the days of yore when a movie didn't necessarily have to be a FILM to be good.  It could just be a movie.  It could just transport you to a different time and place and give you a couple of hours of escapism, even if things turned out predictably. In fact, sometimes knowing that the good guys would win was the fun of those movies.  It has shades of Independence Day, Jurassic Park, Top Gun, Rocky IV, and Big Trouble in Little China, not to mention of course, the Godzilla aspect of the whole thing.  It's a movie that knows how to go big, and then let you go home without feeling disappointed or dumber for having watched it. It's got a brain (in fact two of them...sorry, I couldn't resist) but  And I liked it.

The super-ego part of me is saying "don't give this movie more than 3 and half. You should KNOW better" but there's a part of me that, if I was a 13 year old kid (the prime audience for a blockbuster anyway) again, this would be one of my favorite movies of the year.  Tell you what kiddo, we'll balance it out with an overall score of:

4 stars

A lower score would seem to negate the beauty and scale of the battle scenes, but a higher score would indicate that intellectual analysis would reveal more, and I don't think it would.  Here, what you see is what you get, but what you pay to see, is probably exactly what you wanted to get.  Also, someone needs to start on those Hannibal Chow t-shirt designs ASAP.


1 comment:

Kevin Kelman said...

Ok, now that i have actually read your review, im more excited to see this movie. Also, now that ive commented on your blog, you cant say that nobody commented. Thank you/ Your welcome!