Monday, July 29, 2013

Pacific Rim

This is not "Five Writing Lessons From Pacific Rim". There's a certain point in movies where spectacle overwhelms any ability to critique the plot and I certainly wasn't trying. This is just my impressions from seeing the movie this weekend.

Be warned there will be some spoilers, so can I recommend you go see the movie? Seriously, it is quite awesome.

So, yes. Wow.

Let's start with the opening sequence. Within the first five minutes of the movie we've got the situation down: giant monsters called kaiju are coming out of a hole in the Pacific Rim and destroying cities. Standard military options don't work, so the world unites to build giant robots called Jaegers to fight them.

In the next five minutes or so we meet the main character, Raleigh, who is one half of a Jaeger pilot team with his brother. We learn that it takes two people sharing minds (memories, really) to pilot one of these beasts. Their Jaeger goes down in a fight with a kaiju and Raleigh loses his brother, setting up his character arc for the rest of the movie.

Dear Marvel, DC, Hollywood: Can you all please learn something from this movie? We get everyone's "origins" out of the way before we even see the damn title sequence and move on to the meat of an actual plot. Would it be too much for the next superhero movie to follow Mr. del Toro's example on this one? Because it worked pretty well in Hellboy. And All Star Superman.
Yeah, we're done here.
Anyway. The fighting is just spectacular all over, to the point where the laws of physics give up and the Rule of Cool takes over. Let me say right now that I do not care how impossible it is for an alien lizard monster to unfurl its wings and carry a robot the size of a skyscraper into orbit, or how "likely" it is that the robot will cut the monster in half and survive the subsequent plunge back to Earth. It is awesome and that's enough for me!

The characters aren't incredibly deep, but they are interesting and entertaining. Idris Elba is the standout performance, and everyone else from Rinko Kikuchi to Charlie Day do fine work. Honestly Charlie, Burn Gorman and Ron Perlman steal every scene they're in.

The kaiju set a new standard for giant monsters. Some of them ought to look damn goofy, but they end up being menacing by virtue of sheer size and, um, killiness. The Jaegers are all impressive as well, and if there's one complaint I've got it's that we don't see enough of them. Sometimes budgets are a terrible thing! For the record Gypsy Danger is the coolest Jaeger, but I'm fond of the big old Russian model and I love their pilot suits.

I've seen in a few reviews of the movie that the middle part drags, or that it's too long. I don't see it. Please, feel free to point out any scenes that don't advance the plot or someone's character, because I don't know what you could have cut out!

The "drift", the mind link, is a really effective tool for getting across backstory very quickly. We get a good impression of almost every main character this way, on top of what del Toro gets across through action and dialogue. I think Idris Elba's character is one of the few who doesn't get this treatment, and he's probably more effective that way - seeing him as anything other than The Boss would just weaken him.

I'm really hoping Pacific Rim's overseas numbers do well enough to make more movies like this viable, and to keep Guillermo del Toro movies viable - either a sequel to this (he's said he's interested), or At The Mountains of Madness at long last. Happily we've got a shot of at least one more good giant monster movie coming up soon...

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