Guillermo del Toro's "Pacific Rim"

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Guillermo del Toro's "Pacific Rim"

Post by Deviss on Sun Aug 04, 2013 2:15 pm

Deviss wrote:"I never did have very good timing."

  • Story: Three stars
  • Acting: Three and a half Stars
  • Directing: Four Stars
  • Visuals: Four and a half Stars
  • Overall: Four and a half Stars

What comes to your mind when you think of giant monsters? What about giant robots? The answers for the latter could range anywhere from the titular characters in 1999's "The Iron Giant" or the Voltron animated series, to the popular Japanese media franchise known as "Neon Genesis Evangelion". The answers for the former could be just as wide-ranging, including Gamera, however, undoubtedly chief among them would absolutely have to be the expansive "Godzilla" franchise. Stretching back all the way to the 1954 release of the seminal "Godzilla", a Japanese science fiction Kaiju film produced by Toho, the franchise would continue throughout the years, albeit intermittently. Whatever comes to mind when pondering either of those questions, the consensus would hopefully be that everyone who has seen, read, or even heard of one or more of the aforementioned series, is that they enjoyed them. Not just that, but also that they left an enduring effect on those people.

---

When legions of monstrous creatures, known as Kaiju, started rising from the sea, a war began that would take millions of lives and consume humanity's resources for years on end. To combat the giant Kaiju, a special type of weapon was devised: massive robots, called Jaegers, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge. But even the Jaegers are proving nearly defenseless in the face of the relentless Kaiju. On the verge of defeat, the forces defending mankind have no choice but to turn to two unlikely heroes - a washed up former pilot (Charlie Hunnam) and an untested trainee (Rinko Kikuchi) - who are teamed to drive a legendary but seemingly obsolete Jaeger from the past. Together, they stand as mankind's last hope against the mounting apocalypse.

As I mentioned in the introduction, my personal hope is that whoever is reading this review has had some measure of exposure to one or more of the many different versions of the "giant robots" or "giant monsters" area of Science Fiction. For myself, my earliest exposure to this genre, if it could be called such a thing, was to the "Godzilla" franchise at a young, impressionable age. And even though the majority of the fan community has reviled it, I owe my fandom to the 1998 science fiction monster film "Godzilla". Since that moment, the King of the Monsters has left an impact on me the size of one of his massive footprints that has maintained itself for years. And just so the Toho purists can breath a sigh of relief, the Americanized Godzilla was not my only exposure to the character. I have seen many of the traditional Japanese films. But enough of that, I am beginning to diverge from the original subject.

Upon seeing the first trailer for the new Guillermo del Toro movie titled "Pacific Rim", one could imagine this fan's level of excitement. Not only were we getting to see a movie with giant robots, thankfully ones that weren't intelligent or autonomous and riddle the movie with inane dialogue, but we were also getting giant freaking monsters. The best part of the latter is that the monsters were just that, monsters. They had no "ulterior motive", no semblance of a conscience, or any other ridiculous trope that would bog down the movie to the point of asininity. No, "Pacific Rim" was a good ol' fashion summer popcorn flick about humanity's struggle against invading monsters.

Moreover, and this was a big plus to me being an avid "Sons of Anarchy" fan, TV star Charlie Hunnam had been cast as one of the main characters. Not to mention Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, and Ron Perlman were also cast as Stacker Pentecost, Mako Mori, and Hannibal Chau respectively. While this was recognizable in the very first trailer only, Ellen McLain, who is widely known for voicing GLaDOS, her homicidal AI character in the Portal video games, was cast as the voice of the Jaegers' artificial intelligence system. A complaint from some part of the audience is that while the robot/monster aspect of this movie is substantial, the human aspect, specifically the character development, was found to be lacking. Even though I've only seen "Pacific Rim" once (believe me, I intend to see it many more times when I'm able) I can easily say that while there were some minor issues, the differing performances were, by and large, enjoyable.

Rinko Kikuchi was enjoyable as Mako Mori, but I would like to give recognition to Mana Ashida, the young girl that plays Mako as a child. During her time on screen, I haven't ever felt so much emotion with a child actor before. I felt so bad for the little girl that I just about wanted to get out of my seat and jump into the movie so I could help her. That would have screwed with the events of the movie, but you understand my intention.

Despite that, it was Charlie Hunnam's casting that took the cake for me early on. Being the "Sons of Anarchy" fan that I am, I was thrilled to see Jax Teller himself cast as the movie's main protagonist. Some have complained about Hunnam's performance as Raleigh Becket, but I found no problem with it. Perhaps I'm biased having followed the FX series since its debut; perhaps I'm just ignorant in the ways of "finer acting". Whatever. While I am much more inclined to side with the former instead of the latter, I will instead choose to say that everyone enjoys things differently. To each their own. I will say that though his character was by and large stereotypical, there is one particular scene in Idris Elba's performance in which he addresses a large crowd of people that work in the Shatterdome (the Jaeger control center) before the final battle. I enjoyed that scene just as much as any of the Jaeger-vs-Kaiju fights, and it's a scene that I almost used for this review's overall quote.

I suppose I should touch in the movie's "real main characters" shouldn't I? The Jaegers... man do I love those gigantic mechanical wrecking machines. Even though we only get a handful of different Jaegers in this movie, each was designed in a unique way that reflected the heritage of that respective country. China's Jaeger, named "Crimson Typhoon", has a design that can be traced back to the wooden lacquer armor of, incidentally enough; their Japanese neighbors the samurai. Russia's Jaeger, named "Cherno Alpha", one of the first Jaegers constructed, was designed in a way that was reminiscent of a nuclear reactor cooling tower. The one problem I had with the Russian Jaeger was its two pilots who, unfortunately, looked laughably stereotypical. But it is the Australian and American Jaegers that we spend the most time with. "Striker Eureka" and "Gypsy Danger" are the ones that look the coolest, perform the best, and do not only the most damage, but also receive the most screen time. One very important part of this movie being enjoyable was the decision by del Toro to use a wide-angle during most of the Jaeger/Kaiju brawls. By doing so, del Toro ensures that the audience can actually see what is going on in front of them. Something I desperately hope Michael Bay paid attention to.

However as cool as the Jaegers are, the idea that they present is even cooler. As is stated early on in the film, instead of having one person "pilot" the machine, two people are required to share the overwhelming mental load of piloting the sophisticated machines. Much like the two hemispheres of the human brain. Not only that, but the way the two, in one case three, pilots ensure that they will pilot the Jaeger with destructive force is a technique called "the Drift". It is a method that "mind melds" the pilots with the machine, an idea I wish would have gotten just a little more elaboration on, but was very intriguing nonetheless.

Something else that was intriguing that the decision to label the monsters as "Kaiju". They had their own unique codenames sure, but the fact that the Japanese word was used instead of some brainless American term was very reverential. As was the choice to use/keep in key moments of Japanese dialogue. One of which shows the film's respect early on between three characters, while the other proved to be the most emotional line of dialogue in the entire movie. What's more is that the second moment was left untranslated and without a subtitle.

In terms of the Kaiju themselves, I personally loved the designs of each; each Kaiju was given a vaguely humanoid silhouette to echo the man-in-suit aesthetic of the early Japanese films. Also, there were certain design elements that were shared by all Kaiju; this is intended to suggest that they are connected and were designed for a similar purpose. What that purpose is however is something I will leave for you to discover. One other detail that I thoroughly enjoyed was the effects a Kaiju would have on the environment. It isn't shown much in the movie, only given brief time during the opening narration, but it was nice to see that it was given attention.

As is my semi-often custom, I am listening to the exciting and energetic soundtrack as I type this review. Chiefly known for his work on the first "Iron Man" movie as well as each season of the HBO series "Game of Thrones" composer Ramin Djawadi (don't worry, I had a hard time pronouncing it too) does a marvelous job yet again in his composing the soundtrack for "Pacific Rim". After seeing this movie, I have caught myself humming or whistling the theme of this movie more than once. Not only that but whilst watching the movie, Djawadi's score does the job it's supposed to and that is keeping me engaged in what is happening on screen before me. If you've listened to the "Iron Man" soundtrack, or perhaps one of the "Game of Thrones" seasons' soundtrack, and haven't heard this one yet, it is well worth the time.

If it wasn't clear enough by now, I enjoyed "Pacific Rim". So much so that I typed out all of this. If you haven't seen it yet, I strongly recommend that you give it a try. Don't listen to the criticism of everyone around you, see it for yourself and form your own opinions. It goes without saying that I will have Kaiju/Jaeger-levels of expectation for next year's "Godzilla" movie. If "Pacific Rim" can be done this well, I expect much, much better from Gareth Edwards for the King of the Monsters.

This was a review by tMG, and where's my g--damn shoe?!

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Re: Guillermo del Toro's "Pacific Rim"

Post by frang on Mon Aug 05, 2013 4:22 am

I passed on this movie. I'm just not fond of giant robot movies.

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