Dee Discusses: Pacific Rim

Posted: July 25, 2013 by Dee in Dee, General Media, Movies, New Movies, Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

Apparently Pacific Rim has become a polarizing film in the fandom, and that’s interesting to me. Or really there’s a variety of responses to it, and they’re all very different. It’s not just a love it or hate it reaction. There’s layers. There are people who loved the visuals but thought the script was ehhh. There were people who hated it for the latter. Some people thought it was just a fun (but dumb) action sci-fi flick. Some thought it was the best movie ever and they’ve seen it several times since it came out. It’s been very interesting looking on Tumblr and seeing all the responses. I know I had mixed feelings coming out of it, and I think on reflection there are things that I like more and like less. Straight out I’ll say that Guillermo del Toro is one of my favorite directors, and I think his vision is ridiculously complex and fascinating. I’ll be talking a lot about how this film looks, and I know that’s all because of del Toro. If you’ve seen Pan’s Labyrinth or Hellboy you know what I’m talking about. I’ll admit I knew very little about the cast, outside of Idris Elba who is amazing in everything. So I came into this movie going okay it’s giant robots vs. giant monsters and that right there is guaranteeing I’ll have fun as hell while watching. And it was. So let’s get this review started.

Pacific Rim is set some time in the future, when unexpectedly a portal to an alien dimension opened up at the bottom of the Pacific ocean. A horrible giant monster, named Kaijus in this, came out and attacked the nearby city. It took a long time before they were able to bring the monster down. In time more came through and they steadily got more powerful, adapting to the human defense. They created giant mechanical machines called Jaegers to battle the Kaijus. The movie starts up with Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) and Yancy Becket, a brother combo who pilot one of the Jaegers. In Jaegers, two pilots are required, and they are mentally connected so that they share a brain. One is the left, one is the right. They have to be drift compatible, meaning able to mentally co-exist and share complete trust. During a fight, the brothers take a risk to save a boat, but it backfires when Yancy is killed and the Jaeger mostly destroyed. Raleigh survives, which doesn’t often happen when faced with that much trauma. Years later, the government has decided to stop the Jaeger program and build a giant wall instead. Raleigh works on the wall, but the director of the program Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) approaches him after the wall is easily destroyed by the vastly growing Kaijus. They only have four Jaegers left and they plan to try and destroy the rift between the worlds.

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Raleigh meets Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), Stacker’s assistant, and quickly feels like there is some kind of connection between them. People are being trained to serve as his co-pilot, but he challenges Mako to a duel and states she is the only co-pilot he’d accept. Stacker has his own reasons for refusing her that spot, but eventually he gives in. He turns out to be right to stop her, because a past trauma causes her to panic while in the drift and she nearly kills their own people. Despite that, Raleigh is insistent she is his partner now. Meanwhile two doctors Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) fight over their approach to the Kaijus. Newton insists they are more than they appear, and there are motives outside of just show up and kill everything in sight. Hermann has used math to calculate the rising number of attacks. He sees the numbers and supports attacking the rift, but Newton thinks they should know more about the Kaijus before jumping into anything. The stage is set for a show down with the Kaijus and the rift, but what are they really after? Can Mako and Raleigh work together to save the day? Is there any hope for mankind? Ha ha seems pretty obvious what the answers are to all of that, but see the movie anyway.

That’s my first criticism of the movie, although I’m not sure it’s a problem. The outcome was predictable. There were very few surprises, at least for me, but I’m not sure I thought there needed to be surprises. The fight scenes were surprises, mostly because it was so fascinating to see how they designed the Kaijus and what they were capable of. I didn’t need a plot twist here. I did roll my eyes toward the end a few times, but I didn’t go into the movie caring too much about that.¬†Also why the hell is anyone living in these cities anymore if they know the Kaijus keep showing up? Seriously! Those boundaries should be military and basic housing only. But I digress. I know people are criticizing the plot, and I can see why. It is basic in a lot of ways. I think what makes this movie much more than that rests on the visuals, the world building, and the characters. The world building is fantastic. This is a truly interesting setting and time, and seeing how the drift and the Jaegers are set up is so compelling. There’s a unique set design, mechanical while also different, and how the Kaijus bodies have become part of the decoration is inspired. I loved the brief addition of Hannibal Chau (Ron Pearlman) if only to see how they’re being used on the black market. The world building is fast but effective. We don’t get to know much about the other Jaeger pilots outside of a few characterizations, but I wanted to get to know them more. I wanted to know about the world and how it was coping, and it really lit up the imagination. I hope we get into that more with Pacific Rim 2, and yes it seems likely we will be getting that movie. So huzzah.

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The characters are interesting for a variety of ways. I have heard people aren’t too fond of Mako, and that shocks me, because I thought she was fantastic. I’ve talked more than a few times in my blog entries about strong women characters, and how I like when women are written to be both emotionally layered while strong at the same time. Too often female characters have to be masculine in nature to be considered strong or equal to male counterparts. Mako had a lot of trauma and emotions, but I felt that made her story more interesting, and she did come out of it to save the day. This is one of the few movies I sincerely think the female and male lead were equals. I never questioned that Mako and Raleigh made good partners and had a special connection. It didn’t need to be romantic in nature, and I think the movie left that slightly vague on person, but it was sincere. It’s also been noted, and I’m noting here too, that Raleigh is different for a white male protagonist. The reason being that his plot is more or less simple, and instead he provides a really strong support system. He’s more emotionally supportive and nurturing of Mako, and that’s usually the part of the female character to prop up the male. Not in this one. His trauma has come and gone and he’s more stable, and he clearly respects his partner. It’s never implied that Mako is being left out of the program because she’s female. It’s because of her trauma and inexperience, and because Stacker is trying to protect her. That’s pretty great. I will note here I would’ve really liked another strong female character in the movie. Mako is great, but outside of her there’s only one other female character and she’s given two lines at most. That’s a 7-1 ratio, and this is just a personal preference, but evening out that a bit would’ve been nice. Stacker of course was great. I love Idris Elba. I loved his arc and his relationship with Mako. I could’ve done without that cheesy Independence Day-esque speech though. C’mon guys.

So here’s where I talk about the visuals, and I don’t feel I can properly describe it. Absolutely stunning. Everything looks amazing in this. The world building was also set up by visual cues, and there are a lot of subtle designs that I probably missed. I’ll need to pay more attention on a second viewing when the DVD comes out. I laughed out loud at several points in this movie, sometimes because it was genuinely funny, and sometimes because I was startled by the action sequences and was delighted by it. There’s this ever present tension to those fights and on such a huge scale. I think I yelped several times when something happened. It was great. I think some of the monsters were pretty basic in design, which I think is unfortunate, but it was intentional for a few reasons plot-important. But when they start adapting and go up a few levels? WOW. Really just a delight. The pilot stations were great and I loved to see how they worked. It was a feast for the eyes, something del Toro always delivers on. I said coming out that it was either awesomely stupid or stupidly awesome. I’d go with both. The story was a little basic. Some of it was sincerely interesting, while other parts of it were too full of tropes and cliches. I don’t think it’ll be winning any awards for acting or plot. Not to say the actors were bad, they were good, but not great. I had a really fun time. I enjoyed watching it. I would watch it again, and I look forward to owning it. I think if people go in with an open mind, they’ll have a blast.

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