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Pacific Rim (2013)

July 13, 2013

Pacific-Rim-Imax

 

written by: Guillermo del Toro and Travis Beacham

produced by: Guillermo del Toro, Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni & Mary Parent

directed by: Guillermo del Toro

rating: PG-13 (for sequences of intense sci-fic action and violence throughout, and brief language)

runtime: 132 min.

U.S. release date: July 12, 2013

 

A day after witnessing giant manned robots battling enormous monsters on an IMAX screen, I was on an ecstatic geek high and found myself letting every moviegoer I encountered know about “Pacific Rim”. One friend replied, “Oh, is that the “Transformers” movie?”

Well, that’s understandable and to be expected, I guess. But, it’s so far off. If such a comparison must be made, one would find that Guillermo del Toro has made a totally awesome giant robot movie void of the sexist and juvenile trappings we’ve been given in summers past. One that you can take your child too without subjecting them to a movie consisting of racism, soft porn and man-child adults, therefore, you can have a fun time here – that is, if giant robots vs. monsters is your thing.

 

pacificrimgipsy

 

The movie opens with a narration that looks back on what took place in the near future. An enormous fissure in the Pacific Ocean floor had opened and released massive alien monsters (called “Kaiju”) from an inter-dimensional portal, killing thousands after attacking San Francisco, before moving on to other major cities. With military weaponry useless, the governments and corporations of the world came together and built robots the size of the tallest skyscrapers. These creations (known as “Jaegers”) are piloted by two humans who must synchronize not only their physicality, to control the left and right movement, but they also have to be of the same mind by using what is called a neural bridge, known as “drifting” in order to fully utilize the robots.

That right there is a pretty unique concept for this genre, at least from what I can recall. These robots are only as good as the rapport between the two humans piloting them. They have to open their minds to each other, exposing their memories as well as their fears, strengths and weaknesses. It doesn’t matter how wonderfully designed or loaded with cool gadgets these robots are, if there’s no unified minds, it’s just a 25-story hunk of junk.

Jaeger hotshot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam of “Sons of Anarchy”) is plucked from obscurity from militant leader Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba, who thankfully is not using that awful Southern accent from “Prometheus”), five years after suffering a tragic loss while defending the Alaskan coastline with his brother (Diego Klattenhoff) from a shark-headed beastie. The monsters have overwhelmed the planet and its inhabitants to the point where there’s only four remaining Jaegers left. Pentecost believes they can still make a difference and regroups his pilots, technicians and scientists at a base in Hong Kong (very fitting) as a last stand against the monstrosities that threaten to obliterate life as we know it.

 

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We watch as Raleigh goes through the requisite chest-thumping rivalry, the kind found in “Top Gun” and “Starship Troopers”, as he encounters a couple other white guys who surprisingly (and confusingly) look like Hunnam. As our protagonist is shown around, we’re introduced to the comedic duo of the movie: the Kaiju-obsessed Dr. Newton Geizler (a hilarious Charlie Day) and the mad scientist-looking, Dr. Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman), whose arrogance sparks nicely with his counterpart’s zaniness. Another humorous character is Hannibal Chau (the irreplaceable Ron Perlman, a del Toro pal) a black market Kaiju organ dealer (think about it – when these monsters fall, who cleans up their mess?) who struts around like a mob boss.

Raleigh soon meets Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi, an Oscar-nominee from 2006’s “Babel”), who, despite her lack of experience in the battlefield, proves to be a kindred spirit for the hero with a scarred soul. The two suit up in Raleigh’s old school robot, an Iron Giant look-alike named Gipsy Danger, and eventually show some obvious chemistry and choreography, after working out some emotional scar tissue. They’re going to need bring their A-game and lead the few remaining Jaeger into an all-out slugfest that will require everyone – in and out of the robots – to combine their know-how and resources in order to kick those monsters back to where they came from.

del Toro has already shown he’s a fan of H. P. Lovecraft (just watch his two “Hellboy” movies again) and now, the director, who also co-produced and co-wrote with screenwriter Travis Beacham, is continuing that tone while including what appears to be his obvious endearment toward Manga, the kaiju movies of Toho Studios and quite possibly Stuart Gordon’s “Robot Jox”, for all I know. You certainly might be able to compare “Pacific Rim” to other sci-fi movies, but it at least has enough going for it that has it standing far enough on its own from those recent giant robot movies.

My anticipation for “Pacific Rim” may have been high enough for me to ignore certain conventions that would usually annoy me.  For example, stock characterization, exposition dialogue and cheesy lines like, “Stay in the Drift! The Drift is Silence!” sat just fine with me, for some reason.  Maybe it was the rocking Tom Morello guitar work that accompanied the killer score by composer Ramin Djawadi (“Iron Man”), but  I ate that nonsense up! Instead of rubbing me the wrong way, I found myself settling in (rather quickly, actually) and enjoying it all, due to my interest in these characters and the dangerous world they live in.

 

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Granted, things get a little sketchy when del Toro and Beacham give us what is supposedly the monster’s master plan, having something to do with colonization (reminding me of those recent evil Kryptonians), which was generally a challenge to swallow. Some may not appreciate the  departure from the uncomfortable creepiness present in del Toro’s films (“The Devil’s Backbone” and “Pan’s Labyrinth”, two of his best), but I was smitten with how he replaced that particular feel with some moody geographic environments and colorful palettes immersed in a creatively rendered 3D atmosphere.

I’ve heard some complaints about “Pacific Rim” already and well, I can’t argue since they’re all valid points. One is how del Toro stages some of the fights with camera angles and shots that are just too close for some viewers, making it hard to figure out who’s hitting what. Another complaint is how many of the skirmishes take place at night or in the rain – or at night in the rain. Again, valid points. The close-up action shots are a challenge at first and they take some getting used to, but I see it as del Toro thrusting viewers into the mess of it all and accentuating the scale of these enormous figures. As for the darkness of the rainy nights (something that’s been happening often in movies, recently), I found it aesthetically fitting, what with the bright lights of the cities, the robots and the highlights of the monsters.

Many have already said that “Pacific Rim” is made for geeky fourteen year-old boys or the inner one in all middle-aged men. Sure, it definitely brought out the pubescent boy in me and seeing clanging robots knocking the bioluminescent lights out of scaly beasts, meets a certain wish-fulfillment. But the fandom goes beyond testosterone or a particular race, since a variety of strong diverse men and women populate the big-screen. The more I think about it though, any gripes about this movie serves as a reminder of how so many have forgotten about how movies can be fun.

“Pacific Rim” is that huge summer movie consisting of deafening sound and fantastic artistic design with a striking presentation, that is totally awesome fun. There’s no other way to put it. Without a doubt, this is the kind of movie that Young David would see multiple times throughout the summer. It’s that rare movie that should be seen again and again in theaters with a new set of friends each time.

 

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RATING: ***1/2

 

 

Kevin-Tong-Pacific-RIm

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. windi permalink
    July 16, 2013 12:04 pm

    well, Calvin is totally psyched to see this movie, he was completely sold when I showed him the previews. As the opening date drew near, and I heard some bad reviews, I was a little nervous to take him to see it, but this makes me excited to take him again. Hopefully we’ll find some time this weekend! 🙂

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