Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I saw Pacific Rim and it was amazing (spoiler free)

I was totally looking forward to seeing Pacific Rim. Pacific Rim promised giant robots fighting giant monsters, with the budget and the creative direction that such an awesome premise deserves. I watched it with my wife, who was at least as excited to see it as I was, which is really saying something. But since we had built up the movie to such a ridiculous degree, could it possibly live up to our expectations?

The answer is a 25-story-tall "YES."

Del Toro drew this image of himself for an interview with The Star
My wife and I sat spellbound right from the start. The story hits the ground running with a description of the first attack by a kaiju. Kaiju are giant monsters that rise up from the ocean to attack human cities. The monster looked amazing. It was clear that Guillermo del Toro's team had nailed two of the main concerns with a movie like this: his monsters looked awesome, and there was a great sense of scale. Everything from the camera angles to the way the monster moved really sold that this was a gargantuan, hugely powerful beast.

The movie then introduces humanity's last hope against the kaiju: Jaegers, giant robots built by the world's nations in a united effort. The Jaegers looked just as great as the kaiju. The main Jaeger, Gipsy Danger, is revealed in its launch bay with a stunning series of shots. There are some great details here, including a pinup girl painted on the Jaeger's chest reminiscent of the nose art from a World War Two bomber. Gipsy Danger awakened that love of machines that lies in the heart of every geek: it was powerful, and it was beautiful.

The first big fight of the movie takes place soon after, between Gipsy Danger and the kaiju known as Knifehead. This is what I had come to see, and it did not disappoint. When Guillermo del Toro made Pacific Rim, he did not recreate the classic kaiju movies. He recreated what a kaiju movie feels like to a kid. When we watch kaiju movies today, we see a guy in a rubber suit pushing over cardboard buildings and wrestling awkwardly with another guy in a suit. That's not what a kid sees: a kid sees two vicious giants swapping bone-crushing blows. That's what audiences get in Pacific Rim.

The movie isn't all monster battles. Once the initial premise is set, we take a step back to meet the characters, explore the world, and set up the plot. First we meet Idris Elba's larger-than-life Stacker Pentecost, who not only has an amazing name but also heads the Jaeger program. Pentecost introduces the main character, the brooding and troubled Raleigh Becket, to Mako Mori, a promising young lady who wants to be a Jaeger pilot. There is a duo of quirky scientists, as well as a colorful assortment of pilots for the other remaining Jaegers.

Ron Perlman's character, Hannibal Chau, deserves a paragraph of his own. The audience at our theater was not particularly vocal during the movie, but Chau was clearly a crowd favorite. The amazing wardrobe, the cocky swagger, the nasty menace and the scenery-chewing delivery combined to ensure that he stole every scene he was in. I could go on about him, but instead you should check out this viral video released before the film hit theaters:

I have a feeling that you already know whether you will like Pacific Rim before you even see it. Just ask yourself if the prospect of giant robots punching giant monsters appeals to you. When doing research for this post, I came across reviews that complained that Pacific Rim is just dumb robots punching dumb monsters. I'm sorry, did it say "Schindler's List" or "Gone with the Wind" above the door when you were walking into the theater? Because I am pretty sure it said "Pacific Rim," and there was even a picture of a robot so you could be sure of what you were getting yourself into.

Yes, the movie is not perfect. The script glosses over how the monsters work and why humanity created Jaegers to fight them. Some of the pacing is uneven, and a sizable chunk of the movie is spent determining what I thought was obviously a foregone conclusion. But it doesn't matter. It's okay that Pacific Rim doesn't have a brain, because it sure has heart.

I find it appropriate that, if my tagging is correct, this is the 100th post I have written on this blog. Pacific Rim is a perfect example of what I created this blog to talk about. Pacific Rim is a fun, exciting, over-the-top film that is sure to give its fans what they want. It is Guillermo del Toro's two-hour love letter to giant monsters and giant robots, and if you love them too, you will want to be there enjoying the ride.

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