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Friday, July 26, 2013

Pacific Rim not perfect by any means, still worth my nine bucks

I finally went to see Pacific Rim last night, clinging desperately to the stellar filmmaking reputation of Guillermo del Toro and the positive reviews I've seen. Obviously that means I've either avoided or ignored the negative reviews up to this point. My friend and former coworker posted his review (which contains mild spoilers) and I avoided it until after having seen the film myself because he prefaced it with the mention of spoilers.

I think I'll follow the same format here as he did in his review.
Again, be aware:  >>>>>> SPOILERZ AHED <<<<<<<

What I liked:
Not being a huge fan of the whole Godzilla-style monster invasion flick, I didn't come into this movie with an extensive viewing background in the genre and a bunch of preconceived notions about how the ultimate giant-monsters-versus-giant-robots story should go. I'm still not what you'd call a fan--it didn't convert me--but it was reminiscent of some of the anime I used to watch back in high school, and that felt good and nostalgic in a way.

The action can't be faulted, except maybe to say that some of the action-packed close-ups of kaiju (that's the monsters in the movie) and jaegers (what the "robots," or more accurately "mechs" [they're not automatons; they're controlled by pilots inside them] are called in the movie) are just a little too frenetic at times to really pick out exactly what's happening. But if you want to see massive destruction, monsters getting pummeled, and cities being leveled, you'll see it here.

I love the idea of alien monsters emerging from an unexplained and sudden physical and dimensional rift that has opened in the ocean floor. Too often, our would-be alien conquerors announce their visit ahead of time by traveling in huge, easily detectable spaceships. We never look down. Nice twist.

I liked that it's a PG-13 I am comfortable taking my 11-year-old to. IMDB's parents guide doesn't do the film justice. It always sounds so much worse when you read it out of context. It mentioned an f-bomb, but I certainly didn't hear it and neither did my companion. Nearly all of the violence in the picture is kaiju/jaeger centered. It's all CG. In those shots you don't even get much of the "Run for your life from Gojira!" panic in the streets as people are crushed under the foot of a marauding monster.

There's a bit of blood now and then when the pilots get tossed around inside the jaegers during combat, and we do see one man get picked up by a kaiju and basically swallowed. And there was a fistfight between two headstrong jaeger pilots where there's a little blood. But for the most part, even the more "gory" violence is really a computer-generated mech ripping a huge, computer-generated hole through a computer-generated monster to a spray of computer-generated fluorescent blue blood analogue. Not the kind of violence I'm worried about my kid seeing. And there's no sex-related material other than an herbalist trying to sell someone something for "male potency." IMDB says he makes a gesture. I imagined him using his forearm to simulate a strong, erect penis. Nope. He simply closes his hands into two fists to demonstrate virility.

What I didn't like:
Some things just didn't make sense to me. Did I interpret the timeline wrong, or did the first kaiju invasion take place in 2013, seven years before the events of the film, which is set in 2020? If that's the case, then how come the little Japanese girl rescued by the jaeger pilot--who appears all of six years old--is obviously in her mid-to-late 20s when the bulk of the story takes place? How does a child age at least 15 years in a span of seven? ...Or did I miss something?

Many--no, make that all--of the characters were straight out of central casting. Some of the smaller roles were blatantly stereotypical, and maybe even racially insensitive. The aforementioned Japanese girl--who as a small child, sounded like she was straight out of one of those anime videos I mentioned before, making those tiny, weird moans and gasps that nobody in real life ever makes as she picked her way through the carnage of a devastated city to face her rescuer--grew up to be not only way too old for her age, but also horribly stereotypical: demure, heavily affected with her fake Japanese accent even though she'd spent the last seven-to-twenty years being raised by a British man, and secretly a ninja.

I kept expecting a close-up of that Russian dude saying to a kaiju in his best fake Dolph Lundgren-Russian accent, "I vill break you." I don't remember their names. They possibly weren't even mentioned. I shall call them Boris and Natasha because that's how stereotypical they were in appearance. Also, all the other nationalities dressed alike but like no other subset of people. It was just weird and made the future look like, "Yes, we all came together as a united world to stop the menace of the kaiju, but there's no way we'll dress like one another or begin to assimilate into one world culture." I half-expected the Chinese to all look like rice farmers in their stereotypical cartoon Chinaman crash-cymbal hats.

I'm going to do my best Seth Myers now: My, how our technology has advanced in a mere seven years. My companion pointed out that necessity is, after all, the mother of invention. But really, Pacific Rim? Really? 50-story, airtight, fully-articulated robots that are controlled via a Vulcan mind-meld of two pilots with the robot's command matrix? Really? We have 3-D holographic computer interfaces all over this world? Not that unbelievable, I guess, but at the same time we have a timer measuring how long since the monsters appeared, and it's a humongous FLIP-NUMBER-CLOCK? Really?? And can some one explain to me how the old, series three or whatever jaegers are ANALOG in nature versus the DIGITAL ones that were knocked out by the EM pulse kaiju? "Analog?" REALLY?

One more big question: If the rift needs to detect kaiju matter in order to open to a traveler, how did the jaeger escape pods make it back through to our world?

And there's one last minor thing that bothered me. Apparently the jaeger design teams took at least one cue from Inspector Gadget. It seems like in order to deploy any special feature on the mech (elbow rocket, plasma cannon, sword), a pilot has to announce it aloud first. The only thing it was missing was the preliminary "Go-go, Gadget," as in "Go-go, Gadget Umbrella!"

I'm starting to talk myself out of having liked this movie as much as I previously thought. Better stop now, because I think I'll have to take my son this weekend to a matinee. I want to enjoy the second screening too, and not be constantly reminded of that nitpicky review I read that purported to be positive but ended up kinda panning the whole affair. Wait, I wrote that review, didn't I? Crap. 

A sequel? I'd be interested in seeing that. I'd rather see At the Mountains of Madness, but if GDT can really nail it with The Strain and Hellboy 3, and if Richard Stanley can truly deliver on his proposed adaptation of The Colour Out of Space, I can settle for Pacific Rim 2. At least, for now...