Thursday, July 25, 2013

A film review: 'Pacific Rim' is an awesome Americanization of Japanese geekdom.

DIRECTOR: Guillermo del Toro

SCREENPLAY: Travis Beacham, Guillermo del Toro

GENRE: Science fiction / action

STARRING: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba,

Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day,

Robert Kazinsky, Max Martini,

Ron Perlman

RELEASE: July 12, 2013

STUDIO: Legendary Pictures


Well, this wasn't supposed to be one of the films that I've watched that I said I'd review, but what the heck! Before all of this excitement goes away, I'd better fuel it till it's all full tank, eh? Hang in there, old decent and mediocre local films, you'll land somehow (or not ever... depending on my laziness level, of course).

Oh yeah. I'll also try and squeeze in a ticket photo from this review onwards (or maybe on my old reviews as well, if I still have the tickets of course) to prove that I'm not a regular pirate of films (if you know what I mean), except for cases where I did watch them in a not-so-legal way. Here's the proof for this particular film:

MBO Cinemas FINALLY changed the kind of paper they

use for its tickets. About time, man!

Taking cues from TV shows (such as the infamous Ultraman and Power Rangers franchise) and sci-fi anime (such as AKIRA, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Gundam) and conceived as a mockery of Hollywood's own take on tokusatsu icon Godzilla and a love letter to the original Japanese version, Guillermo del Toro (who directed Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy's live action films) presents, your ultimate geek-gasm inducer of awesome... Pacific Rim!

I really gotta be honest with you guys; the first time I saw Pacific Rim's teaser trailer, I didn't really bought it. I mean, since it's obviously Hollywood, the shown battle is obviously CGI (I couldn't tell if its a bad or a good one at first) and it's impossible for them to 'lower their standards' by resorting to the way the film's source material handle the visuals of giant-mechs-and-monsters fictions (by that I mean actors wearing latex monster suits and body armors that look like robot parts, fake and super-fragile building set ups, etc.; your typical tokusatsu conventions), I bet it's gonna suck, because they have this reputation of bastardising many great Japanese materials to a pulpy mess (Dragonball Evolution / The King of Fighters / Blood the Last Vampire / TEKKEN / Dead or Alive / Resident Evil, and possibly more to come anyone?).

But, after knowing that the one who helms this film's direction would be a person who handles a fantasy film, viewing its totally cool concept art and hearing some positive feedback by film critics and colleagues, I totally changed my mind. Maybe I should give it a chance. Besides, watching cheesy special effects and bad acting in Japanese-inspired American tokusatsu shows and its original versions on television every weekend evenings were indeed some of the best moments in my childhood... and boy did this film indeed have those conventions condensed into two-hours of absolute mayhem; del Toro-style!

I've seen the first Hellboy film (although I WASN'T really into it when I watched it). In it, I did see Hellboy as Hellboy and not Ron Perlman trying to become Hellboy (on a side note, he's also in this film where he portrayed Hannibal Chau; a cocky yet goofy son-of-a-bitch black market businessman) and a dash of that kind of acting is still present in Pacific Rim while still keeping the 'bad' or 'over-the-top' tokusatsu-style acting intact. Which means that the performances by its main cast (who mainly consist of either relative unknowns, B-listers, or up-and-rising talents like Charlie Day in his role as Newton, an overly-enthusiastic professor who studies and adores Kaijus so much, he tattooed his favourite ones on his arms) are totally passable (I occasionally chuckled instead of having the urge to ridicule them for bad acting, since it really doesn't matter much in a film like this).

Visual wise, I really like how the film's look is treated. Based on what I have read (I mean, based on good old Wikipedia), while del Toro admits that he indeed use some of the elements that make up a tokusatsu show as a basis (an obvious one would be referring to the monsters as Kaijus), he made a conscious decision by asking his team to not look at any pre-existing tokusatsu franchise in crafting the designs of the monsters, robots, buildings, overall atmosphere and setting for the film; he instead asked them to look at old paintings such as Hokusai's famed The Great Wave off Kanagawa and Francisco Goya's The Colossus (I'm not really familiar with this painting, but Mr. Google showed me... and boy, does it screams epicness!), as well as mother nature for inspiration. This in turn gives the look and atmosphere of the film very eye-soothing and heart-calming effects particularly in scenes where water is involved, despite the fact that most of those scenes are usually placed in a bad weather or in a chaotic condition.

Artistically, the designs are definitely vibrant and full of life... for a film that suggests that the end is near. The existence of make-shift building designs, self-financed metal works for fortresses and a destined-to-be-doomed mega-city scape makes the aesthetics bare close resemblance to what is seen in video games like Square Enix's Front Mission series and Konami's Metal Gear series (interestingly, Metal Gear's design department mainstay Yoji Shinkawa not only praised the film, but also did a for the film too) rather than anything I've seen in the Ultraman or Power Rangers franchise. The Jaegers themselves are particularly technologically impressive and sleek-looking... and have totally mechanical yet fluid robot-like movements which totally reminds me of wanzers and Metal Gears from the said games. Furthermore, I could also see the influence of the Final Fantasy franchise, yet another Square Enix product, in the design of the Kaijus and some of the buildings (especially those buildings that uses Kaiju remains). Really awesome stuff, even though I think the Kaijus are too similar in some respect despite each of them having their own distinct features that sets them apart from each other.

Storyline wise, the trailer has already covered the basics; on the surface, it's about Earth's struggles in battling Kaiju attacks by making monsters of its own. What the trailer didn't tell you are the final revelations and the personal stories behind each of the characters and what drives them to keep on living and surviving the horrors each and every day (duh?). This is a good move by the screenwriters, as it gives some emotional weight in order to not overwhelm the audiences with too much of the totally spectacular Ultraman-esque battle sequences and destruction that are bound to invoke the geek-gasm within that keeps popping up one after another (my favourite would be the last minute aerial sword fight... I mean, I did NOT see it coming at all). Although it is inevitable that the main leads will eventually have feelings with each other, since the pair that pilots the rejuvenated Gipsy Danger are basically of the opposite sex, but the thing is... it's totally subtle; an awesome break from what is typically seen in a world where sex sells, as the presence of love is enough in order to make us care about their relationship outside of controlling Jaegers and need not all the swooning, kissing and such. We need love and affection dear Hollywood producers, not boobs. Love and care among each other has always been what matters in this world, man. And look what everyone in this film has accomplished; a feel-good sweet victory after unwillingly having to face mass destruction for as long as they can remember. That is what Hollywood or any other mainstream films really need.

All in all... what else can I say? Go on, people! Go down and take a trip to memory lane and relive them in a condensed form should you are just too lazy to keep up with hundreds and hundreds of Ultraman or Power Rangers or any of the sci-fi anime/tokusatsu episodes/films known to man BEFORE its theatrical run is over! Pacific Rim is the kind of film that have just enough balance of entertainment, drama and philosophy to cure your boredom by going gaga over all of the coolness and cheesiness that Pacific Rim has to offer.
Full Post

No comments:

Post a Comment