Monday, July 15, 2013

Pacific Rim Review

Pacific Rim Review
I love movies of all types. I have a very diverse movie collection at my home. I love Oscar-bait. I love experimental, arthouse films. And I love the blockbusters. In the world of cinema, I feel everything that gets made is important. Everything is apart of film history and because of that fact, its tough for me to remain committed to one genre and forget the rest. I may love a well-acted, thought-provoking, drama but I love to be wowed by a special effects extravaganza just as much.

It is, however, a tough time for summer blockbusters. This is simply because we are living in an effects-driven paradise right now. Special Effects can't even compare to how they were five years ago. Graphics are getting better and better and better. When something truly spectacular, true eye candy, happened on screen it was rare. Now we see some big FX spectacles frequently. But the spectacle doesn't make the movie, and that is why these big blockbusters fail mostly these days. We as an audience crave more than the pretty pictures, we need a story and characters which we care about.

I have heard "Pacific Rim" be described as "Transformers vs. Godzilla in a bathtub". But if you take the time to sit and watch this, it is so much more than that. Writer and director Guillermo del Toro is too gifted of an artist to do something that simple. If you disagree, rent "Pan's Labrynth" or "The Devil's Backbone" he's a true storyteller with the eye of a poet. Even in his blockbuster vehicles like "Blade II," and the "Hellboy" movies are big story driven engines which dig deep into the emotions. It saddens me that only "The Dark Knight" is remembered as the only superhero movie to challenge moral compasses and deal with shades of gray when it comes to heroes and villains. Because that very same summer, "Hellboy 2: The Golden Army" did the exact same thing with its characters. And del Toro dealt with a much weirder world compared to Christopher Nolan. 

This is all my way of saying that there is more to "Pacific Rim" than just "GIANT ROBOTS FIGHTING GIANT MONSTERS OMG!" The movie is driven by its characters more than anything else. del Toro creates a world that feels detailed and lived in. And by the end of the movie, "Pacific Rim" feels like a complete story. There are no unfinished story arcs or needless cliffhangers. All of this working to "Pacific Rim's" advantage.

The film opens with the destruction of San Francisco and Manila by Kaiju. The Kaiju are giant monsters which came from a dimensional opening at the bottom of the Pacific ocean. The humans fought back by creating Jaegers, which are the huge fighting machines seen in the commercials. The Jaegers are controlled by two pilots, whose memories and thoughts are linked through the Jaegers, this process is called "Drifting." The better the link between the two Jaeger pilots, the better the Jaeger will operate. We follow Raleigh Becket  (Charlie Hunnam), who controlled a Jaeger with his brother, until his brother got killed. This incident forced Becket to retire from the Jaeger program. Years later Stacker Pentecost, played by Idris Elba, will recruit Becket back to the Jaeger program. As the world is beginning to lose its faith in the Jaegers. Becket is reluctant to continue, because he doesn't think he can Drift with anyone else except his brother. Pentecost introduces Becket to Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), at first their connection is shaky, but they really become one with their Jaeger. The acting is great across the board. I have loved Charlie Hunnam since "Green Street Hooligans" and he is as courageous and kick-ass as ever playing Becket. Hunnam really etches in the details and the traits of Becket to wonderful effect. Rinko Kikuchi is a real discovery as Mako, a woman who has her own reasons for wanting to fight the Kaiju. I hope to see more of this woman further in the future. And Idris Elba is just god onscreen and he proves that once again in "Pacific Rim." 

Charlie Day shows up as Dr. Newton Geiszler, a scientist who is helping in the fight against the Kaiju in much different ways. Day is funny in this movie, but its nothing like the humor we are used from "Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia," and I love that. Day has unbelievable chemistry with Ron Perlman who plays Hannibal Chau. Chau is a black marketer who sells Kaiju parts. Perlman has been great before and he is great in this. I particularly love how his character gives the audience a glimpse of how the world has changed since the Kaiju's arrival. Another great scene of the movie features a look at a religious cult whose temple is made out of a Kaiju skull. This shows us how the world has been effected by the Kaiju, and it shows that there is much more to the movie than just the big fights. We see a big world in which del Toro has created.

And oh my God, I haven't even discussed the fights yet. I remember in interviews how del Toro really wanted to strike awe in the audience with his fights. Mission accomplished. Each Jaeger and Kaiju we see is unique, which makes each fight scene full of fun. The Jaegers are so focused and detailed that they make Transformers look like toys. There so many tricks up each robot's sleeve that audience will be jumping and yelling with excitement. But the Kaiju have just as many tricks up their sleeves, which make the battles of the movie that more awesome. There was so much detail and effort put into bringing these two behemoths to life and I got to give tons of credit to the crew behind these film, because of CGI alone, "Pacific Rim" is $500, 5-course meal, from the top restaurant in the world.

Overall, what makes "Pacific Rim" incredible is that its more than just the CGI battles. In this day and age, any studio in any country can create something visually beautiful and call it art. But this movie puts art not just in the visuals but in the storytelling as well. This movie is first and foremost, an emotional journey for our heroes, and if that journey wasn't compelling, "Pacific Rim" would fall flat. We believe in our characters and what they fight for, which elevates everything else the movie offers. This is what blockbuster filmmaking is all about, when the audience can take the cake and eat it too. That is when I know its a great movie.

Final Grade: A

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