Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim photo starrating-3andahalfstars.jpgThey don’t get dumber than this. It has a primitive story (robots vs. monsters), explosive special effects and game actors willing to say or do anything to get a laugh. You’ve got to give Guillermo del Toro credit for persuading Hollywood to indulge his fanboy urges. He combines monsters, er uh excuse me Kaiju, robots, an international cast, a huge budget ($190 million!), and throws it all against the wall to sees what sticks.

For the most part, it works. I only wish that Guillermo had the innovation to push this into material that excelled beyond primary concepts. Like puzzle pieces, each actor inhabits a stereotypical role you’ve seen before. Main protagonist Raleigh Becket has lost his brother in an attack and now lives a nomadic lifestyle mentally scarred by the loss. He reports to Stacker Pentecost, a stern commander that has two emotions, pissed and very pissed. I’m curious, was Charlie Day supposed to look like Rick Moranis in Ghostbusters and Burn Gorman recall Crispin Glover in Back to the Future? Regardless the screenplay is funny. Much of it unintentionally so. And my enjoyment was completely dependent on the fact that I was able to laugh with and more importantly AT this picture. There are a lot of humorous developments. Raleigh Becket butts heads with another rival, Chuck Hansen in a full display of alpha male posturing. Just the way actor Charlie Hunnam swaggers into every scene with chest puffed out is good for a few laughs. How many times does this guy need to change his shirt? And there’s something inherently amusing about a woman who has been brilliantly taught her entire life to fight like a champion by her English speaking guardian, but possesses only the most rudimentary command of that language. Was that not part of the lesson plan? Eh! No matter. The production really spoke to the 12 year old in me.

Pacific Rim unfolds like an homage to those Japanese giant monster movies. You know the ones.  Toho studios put them out starting in the 1950s with Godzilla. I grew up on those flicks. They played on TV weekday afternoons after school. (No I wasn’t alive when they came out if that‘s what you‘re thinking) Thankfully the script doesn’t spend too much time on boring exposition. There’s an opening crawl that kind of sets everything up, then lets the computer generated imagery do the talking. Occasionally there’s a slog through some dialogue that will have the viewer asking, “I wonder what the monsters are doing now.“ More often than not the plot has the presence of mind to get back to the combat. And oh what battles! These monsters spit liquid, sprout wings and scream with all the sonic force that modern technology can muster. The pleasures are pure and simple. I appreciate this much in the same way I get a kick out of Congo or Anaconda. No, those aren’t great films, but they are fun. And that’s why you watch something like this anyway, right?

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33 Responses to “Pacific Rim”

  1. GaryLee828 Says:

    I think I’m going to go see this next weekend when I go to see the long-awaited “The Conjuring”. 🙂

  2. yikes, this sounds ridiculous and great at the same time lol

  3. Good review Mark. It’s a tad ridiculous in terms of it’s plot, but it’s still very entertaining and exciting, especially if you love any movie that consists of monsters and robots dueling-off against one another.

  4. oooohh Mark, the Otaku fanboy in me is offended that you would conflate this film with Congo and Anaconda!! Hopefully it’ll still be in your top 5 when we do BANG. Great review – and it confirms my assertion from our podcast that there is a generational / “what you grew up with” divide when it comes to appreciating this…..I would place this on PAR with previous “blockbuster” defining films such as AVATAR, INDEPENDENCE DAY & JURASSIC PARK. Unfortunately, in the post Transformers Michael Bay era – big robots/mechs smashing things is somehow no longer deemed acceptable.

    • Arcturus, that’s a great thought, but I don’t necessarily think the last statement is accurate. I think what del Toro has done here with his monsters and machines has actually done the opposite — proven that if done right, these elements are incredibly fascinating! The Michael Bay Episode of when monsters destroy our buildings is simply ridiculous in the extreme. If you’re meaning that we have a higher threshold for big explosive stuff and that we’ve been desensitized to this level of CGi/special effects, I’d agree with that. but if they’re done Pacific Rim – style, I think they’re still acceptable.

      • Tom, I’m not so sure this is as wildly different from what Michael Bay did in Transformers as you assert. We’re not talking Academy Awards here. It’s still CGI heavy combat.

        However I enjoyed Guillermo’s version more.

      • That’s definitely true. I guess what I saw in Pacific Rim was more compelling of a storyline than the Bay ones. i might also be bashing Bay’s movies because I also don’t really like Shia LeBeouf lol. Can’t hold that against the director, I suppose. Still think PR needed some better acting, but definitely better than Transformers.

    • Well Arcturus, then I’m offended you don’t see the entertainment value in Congo or Anaconda. LOL Do you really think monsters vs. robots is any more meaningful than giant snakes or killer gorillas?

      Avatar, Jurassic Park, Independence Day are fair comparisons in terms of budget, but not in popularity. Me thinks you over-estimate the appeal of this film. Pacific Rim doesn’t have the potential to be a blockbuster on that level.

      It’ll be interesting to see how this performs in the U.S. compared to the UK and elsewhere. I suspect its homegrown appeal will be limited. About $110 million seems likely. That would be a crushing disappointment for Warner Brothers given it’s hefty $190 million price tag. International success is imperative (and probable) for this to avoid being another costly failure.

      • I refer you back to my earlier point that this particular concept of “Mechs Vs Monsters” is somehow not as acceptable/palatable for popular consumption. I see no difference between that concept and that of the “alien invasions” represented in countless blockbusters that have come before. The knives it seems, were already out for this movie. Hopefully the good buzz its generating on the interwebs will give it a good run.

  5. That’s a great review Mark, and I think I bashed the script/acting factors entirely too much in my review. Sometimes you just have to set aside loftier expectations for great writing when the majority of the effort has been put into showing off special effects and the need to entertain without informing. Pacific Rim is a classic case. There was so much fun to be had in the battles but I too was hoping for something better with the script, and I was also hoping for a little more dialogue to take a break from the constant chaos. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had that complaint. . .

    • Yeah the script is a little, hmmm shall we say expected? A key line in my review is, “my enjoyment was completely dependent on the fact that I was able to laugh with and more importantly AT this picture.” I laughed at things that were obvious jokes and also at things that were meant to be serious. BUT…..humor is desired whether planned or accidental.

    • Hey Tom, I just read your great review. I have to say a 6/8 rating seems kind given the pasting you give this film in the main text!! I would challenge both you and Mark to name a blockbuster alien/apocalyptic/sci-fi film that DIDN’T have a dumb/basic script and/or cliche characters!

      I don’t mean that as aggressive a challenge as it sounds, and of course, there a few that spring to mind (Star Trek) However, I think criticisms of scripts and shoddy acting are easy to level at these types of films, and generally are not what makes or breaks them. I believe ultimately that its about spectacle; and whether or not you like or warm to the actors and the characters they portray.

      With Pacific Rim, I think you either go with it or you don’t. From my extremely small sample size of friends who are bloggers/podcasters – it seems that there are 2 camps: Those that loved it unequivocally and revelled in the delight of seeing a genre from their childhood fully realised with modern CGI. Then there is the other group whose reviews point out its shortcomings all the while acknowledging that its “fun” and the CGI is “impressive”.

      As you can tell, I’m in the first group!!

      • I suspect there is no acceptable answer to this question but ok I’ll bite. How about District 9?

        P.S. I enjoyed this film! What are we debating? HOW I enjoyed it? A cerebral concept to be sure. You bring the level of discourse up to a higher level, my friend. 🙂

      • Damn Mark beat me to the punch! 🙂 District 9 would have been my offer as well. But Arcturus, you and Mark are both spot-on. I almost regret writing the review I posted since I did it so quickly. I usually allow 24-ish hours to pass before I type something up so I can let the buzz settle down a bit. I enjoyed myself immensely in this movie. Just immensely. I kind of went off on tangents on my review, and tried to build an argument out of it’s weaknesses. lol. I suppose its better than the alternative — hitting writer’s block and not being able to write ANYthing! 🙂

        thanks for the kind words.

  6. Nice review Mark. I’m hopefully catching this at some point this week and can’t wait to just be mindlessly entertained. That’s precisely what I’m looking for with this and sounds like it’ll deliver just that!

  7. Snappy review, Mark. But I think I would not be entertained by a movie that promises so little in the way of story development. Yet, at the same time, I am intrigued by a movie that generates a review and multiple comments that are more entertaining than the movie could possibly be. Perhaps you and your friends could write a better script worthy of the special effects.

  8. Don’t know if Charlie Day was supposed to look like Rick Moranis and Burn Gorman like Crispin Glover, but great comparison haha. I was disappointed by the writing and characters in this film too. Guillermo del Toro could have attempted to transcend the genre with his writing, yet he chose not to. The dialogue and narration are pretty stupid almost to the point of dragging the movie down (at least for me).

    Plus I couldn’t believe how vanilla Hunnam’s character is for being one of those “rebels who doesn’t play by the rules” type guys. I didn’t think about the Asian character’s poor English being unusual, but now that you mention it, that does seem weird that she doesn’t speak it better. I was mostly annoyed by how she plays into the timid Asian-girl stereotype and how misogynistically the male characters act toward her. They are always trying to protect her and never trust her to do anything right.

    My inner child enjoyed the special effects and the fight scenes enough that I was inclined to overlook all the aforementioned shortcomings though. Like you seem to suggest, we watch these types of movies for the simple pleasures, not necessarily for their artistic merits. Great review.

    • Now that you mention it, Rinko Kikuchi did play the warrior princess as well as the Geisha. The script wanted it both ways. Her character was a bit frustrating to me too.

  9. Glad you enjoyed this Mark! I ended up liking it way more than I thought. Gonna see it again this wknd 😀

  10. Good review. 🙂 Hoping to see this tomorrow. Sounds like the exact thing I’m expecting – mindless fun.

  11. I love to have fun with movies. And this one was fun. It had great action scenes between robots and monsters that excited me. The story reminded me of a lot of different movies including “Independence Day”. The acting was good, but laughable at times. I would probably enjoy seeing it again later. 4 stars.

  12. So, I already thought you gave fantastic reviews, but I think I just developed a blog crush on you. You pretty much stated everything I was thinking about this film–your mentioning the way Charlie Hunnam walked made me laugh because I was just talking to my friend about exactly that. My good friend and I reviewed the film if you would like to take a moment to check it out. You and I essentially have the same opinion, but my friend, Meryl provides an opposite perspective.

    http://cinemababble.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/pacific-rim-2/

    I really respect your opinion, so we’d love to hear your thoughts!

    -Jarret

    • I just read your “About Me,” and I have to say that it has really put your URL into context for me hehe we have only done two reviews (which is technically four for us), and three of them have clocked in just past a page in length. That being said, we would still very much like to hear what you have to say.

      -Jarret

    • Charlie Hunnam displayed all the acting prowess of a slightly older Garrett Hedlund. 😛

      So cool to be the subject of someone’s blog crush. I’m flattered.

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