Jul 15, 2013

[Movies] Pacific Rim (2013)

I love robots. And big hulking ones - even if piloted by humans they're still pretty cool. Obviously I'm a Transformers fan, but my love of robots has led me down stranger paths like the old 80's cartoon The Mighty Orbots and sad campy B-movies like Robot Jox and Robot Wars. And man, I tried re-watching those movies recently and they were pretty bad indeed - and yet they maintain a special place in my heart.

Pacific Rim clearly set out to be the geek movie of the year. I mean seriously, it's a movie all about men piloting giant fighting robots to defeat giant monsters rising from the depths of the ocean. How can this not be a geek movie? GIANT ROBOTS, PEOPLE!

So we made sure to squeeze in some time to watch this movie over the weekend despite how busy we were with other geek activities. And thankfully, we did manage to see it despite the crowds and it was indeed awesome. And hopefully I'll be able to capture some of that in this movie review.

Synopsis: Pacific Rim is a 2013 science fiction movie written and directed by Guillermo del Toro and co-screenwriter Travis Beacham. The movie is obviously a celebration of Japanese kaiju movies without directly referencing specific ones.

The premise of the movie is based on the concept of a breach or interdimensional portal that opens up in the Pacific Ocean, allowing giant monsters to cross into our world. The monsters are sooned tagged as Kaiju and in time humanity rallies to defend itself by creating giant robots called Jaegers to battle the monsters. These robots are piloted by two pilots in order to accommodate the neural load of piloting the machine. Thus the two pilots are joined telepathically in something known as the Drift - the closer the pilots, the better the neural connection.

The opens with the brothers Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) and Yancy Beckett (Diego Klattenhoff) who pilot the Jaeger Gipsy Danger. But in a battle with a bigger Kaiju the Gipsy Danger is brutally mauled and Yancy is killed in the process. This marks a turning point in the war as Jaeger after Jaeger falls to the increasingly skills Kaiju who seem more and more suited to fighting the Jaegers. Thus humanity turns to creating a massive wall to defend the Pacific coastlines. Thus the remaining Jaegers are assigned to Hong Kong while the rest of the wall is completed. But Marshall Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) has one last plan for defending the planet before it's too late.

Again, GIANT ROBOTS. This movie has quite a number of them, although the bulk of the action really boils down to four primary Jaegers(or maybe just Gipsy Daisy up there in most of the promotional materials). And this is not a bad thing - each Jaeger is nicely distinct with different fighting styles and visual appeals that somewhat reflect the philosophies and personalities of their countries of origin. And this does make for interesting sequences indeed.

Now the combat is largely physical in nature - this is not about the Jaegers being walking battle platforms overloaded with different weapons. And this makes sense to some extent given how one can only imagine how much effort it took to develop these machines in the first place. Just getting them to walk must have been enough of a challenge but to integrate additional weapons systems over time probably just complicated things even further. And besides, it's not a true kaiju tribute movie without a lot of lumbering, clumsy hand-to-hand combat to really make things interesting.

The core plot of this movie isn't all that complicated - humans build giant robots to defeat giant monsters. It really doesn't get all that more complicated than that, and that's not a problem at all. Keeping things generally simple do keep up with the adventure movie feel that del Toro had been aiming for when he put this together. It's a fun romp that doesn't require too many brain cells to enjoy (and probably don't do well under a lot of scrutiny).

The actors are relatively unknown - or at least they are not the sort of marquee big name actors that you'd expect attached to a project of this nature. I think the only one who really stood out for me was Idris Elba, who was perfectly cast for his particular role. And of course there was Charlie Day as Dr. Newton Geizler - the guy who had me and Tobie constantly wondering why he seemed to familiar all throughout the movie. I could cite Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori, although it's hard to really credit her acting given how weird her had character had been written. I feel any acting issues were related to this aspect.

The movie is a major brawl-fest - so it's like the fun of a Michael Bay movie combined with the metal-rending action of Real Steel with some intelligence added in. Yes, it's still a summer blockbuster movie. But it's one with a decent amount of intelligence still woven into things and a movie that is not afraid to stay at a certain level and leave parts of the audience behind. So yes it has quite a number of big fight scenes and yet it also has odd moments of decent character development, world-building and such.

And while it did have a somewhat trite effort to add in different character angles such as father-son tensions, the father-daughter dynamic and childhood trauma, I'm glad that they did not resort to the misplaced romance angle (hello The Matrix).

Pacific Rim is a fun movie that is designed to appeal to a wide variety of age groups. Don't take it too seriously and just enjoy the right. Thus the movie gets 5 unique fighting moves that each Jaeger has out of a possible 5 - but I have to admit that I may be a tad biased.

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