Thursday, July 18, 2013

PACIFIC RIM goes big and delivers big where it counts

My wife. My sister. My mother. My father. My friends. They have all asked "What is Pacific Rim?" One of my friends even called it a... you know I'm going to keep that joke in the dirt but if you have a dirty mind I'm sure you know where that finished statement could go.

I plainly explained, with no true knowledge of the film, "IT'S GIANT ROBOTS VS. GIANT MONSTERS. IT LITERALLY CANNOT FAIL." (ed. note: The movie is NOT doing well in U.S. box office thanks to some cute yellow creatures and a reformed spy, and some sequel movie about grown ups)

Thankfully, upon watching this in a Regal Cinema's hyper tricked out RPX theatre engineered to be a full on assault on your visual and auditory senses, PACIFIC RIM is a good winner for many reasons.

This quote from the review in Forbes illustrates one great fact about this film that may have been the true answer to why so many people have to even ask about PACIFIC RIM.

What's really "at stake" is the idea that audiences will indeed embrace a big-budget picture that isn't a sequel, remake, or reboot of a known property. ~ Scott Mendelson, contributor.This is the first original movie I'm reviewing that is not based on preexisting material. This is big news because I think we have to reach into the past decade or further to find something as original (depending on who you ask it was either the Wachowski brothers or ) like THE MATRIX (1999).

Originality on display takes equal parts of inspiration and pure imagination to make the concept original. To the naked eye, director Guillermo del Toro (HELLBOY series, PAN'S LABYRINTH) has created a world that is ripe with culture, expansive theories, backstories, and potential follow up stories. I think things like that are necessary for me to buy into science fiction -- the science aspect -- how things work together and function not only practically but in the scheme of artistic narrative. Del Toro weaves in things called "kaiju," "jaeger," "dimensional rifts" to make them make sense for us simplistically yet with so much potential for expanding on those ideas. Gets you to ask the all important question of "why."

Original concepts are great yet in that is where the movie did not go as big and its with the human element which is a mixed bag. I don't think unless you watch FX Network (Sons of Anarchy or It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) or have watched a lot of TV (Revenge's second season perhaps), or past Del Toro films (BLADE II or HELLBOY 1 or 2) will you get excited about WHO is in the movie. My wife loves her some Idris Elba (and he easily had the best lines and the best role of the entire movie with a great name like Stacker Pentecost... another dirty joke in my adolescent mind lol).

There are no instantly recognizable faces that many summer blockbusters usually have on hand. A cast with a Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi (she played a mute teen in BABEL -- great film by the way), Charlie Day, Clifton Collins Jr., Burn Gorman or the always great Ron Perlman (second best role of the movie) doesn't exactly add up to bring people in droves like Tom did earlier this year. Also other movies had the backing of the Enterprise to get its audience in too. This movie has neither.

Next human flaw is that we're told about many ideas and I feel there could have been time to flesh those out beyond flashes of a world in another dimension or another planet. The thing is more time was dedicated into the "here and now" and not entirely opening up -- which if its an original concept with, assumedly no guarantee of a sequel -- they could have gone for broke and gotten a better result (though don't mistake, this movie was good). The very novel concept of "the bridge" where two people's mindscombine is explained well enough to get the movie through, but I would have appreciated more insight to this science. Oh but there is one more issue.

The actors are all good but in some cases it seems they aren't good together. They remind of watching the Atlanta Hawks last year. Great individual pieces however on the bright lights and big stage, many of them seem out of their element. Secondly, the characters don't all seem fully developed. The main character arcs between the burned out pilot and the rookie did not seem like it went as far as it could and seemed confused as to which direction it needed to pursue. They get SOME development -- more than in most movies like TRANSFORMERS -- but not as much to the extent that I expected from del Toro. However being that this is a summer popcorn movie, these things are not the main event...

Giant robots... as in tall enough to stand upright in deep water offshore and big enough to use a freight ship as a baseball bat. Giant monsters that are just as big resembling sharks, crabs, dinosaurs, other predatory animals and gorillas even with different styles of fighting, tactics, quirks (yeah they're quite nuanced surprisingly), and they're downright frightening! So they gotta fight each other. The fights deliver BIG and LOUD. My seat literally SHOOK from the sound of the action scenes.

I appreciate that the fights were never the same each time with each creature and each robot -- already better on that front than Transformers which admittedly had fights that looked like they melded together into a compacted junk pile. I thoroughly enjoyed each sequence. These scenes are worth the price of admission alone.

The nerds like myself can pick out references and inspiration from a number of different movies and shows from the U.S. and Japan such as:

* Godzilla

* Mobile Suit Gundam (anime)

* Neon Genesis Evangelion (anime)

* Blue Gender (anime)

* Transformers

* The Iron Giant (great animated film with Vin Diesel voicing)

So really I look at this movie as a live-action anime film. That aspect is evident in high-concept science fiction which could turn some off, especially as more questions are asked versus if those people let the film tell it to them -- and it will in spades. I recognize this is not everyone's cup of tea.

PACIFIC RIM is the first original summer blockbuster in a long time and you owe it to yourself to step out a comfort zone and check it out. It's not perfect and has a few missteps but this movie still scores big.



Definitely worth checking out -- it's not a sequel, prequel... robots vs. monsters! It's loud! Summer fun.
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