[Edit – for some reason my auto posting led to this post being rather messed up in terms of formatting. I have tried to sort this out. I also forgot to comment on just how LOUD the film was, but I think we wrote more than enough. More importantly, here is the link to the other version of the review!]
For various reasons this year I have been able to go to the Cinema much more than previously, so I have taken the opportunity to see a good number of the big Summer Movies. “Iron Man 3” was great, “Star Trek Into Darkness” was a treat, “Man of Steel” wasn’t half as bad as I expected, “World War Z” was a terrible adaptation but a middling movie and “Now You See Me” was a great 5 minutes followed up with tripe. However, the film I was really excited about was “Pacific Rim” – partly because I am a huge fan of the Director, partly because I do have a weakness for pseudo B-Movies…. But mostly because it is GIANT ROBOTS FIGHTING MONSTERS!!! And because one of the key characters is Japanese, and it is obviously inspired by Japanese Movies/Manga/Anime, it gets a free pass to be included in the blog! And what better person to virtually sift through my thoughts on this one than with occasional co-blogger Miyuki from Neko’s Movie Litterbox? And this time, I got to choose the film, it wasn’t Korean, and we both actually went to the Big Screen (albeit in different countries on different days). And to mix it up, I saw it in 3D and Miyuki in 2D. I’ll be typing in my usual Light Grey, Miyuki in Red. Enough preamble, and onwards my faithful readers…
3D? Ooooohhh! I don’t envy you. I was so darn glad I could actually catch this one in 2D. Never been a big fan of the eye wrenching pain that a super busy film like this always brings on. You’re a braver soul than we….
I am not sure I was brave.. it was more that it was the only version showing when I had the chance to see it. As a glasses wearer, not only does the darker display bug me, but I feel really awkward wearing 2 pairs of specs!
“Pacific Rim” is set in the near future. Earth has been besieged by an invasion of giant monsters (called Kaiju) that are coming up from a deep sea trench and wreaking havoc and death and destruction. It seems the human race managed to club together, and combated this menace by building equally giant neurally controlled exo-skeletons called Jaegers. The downside is that the mental effort to control these gigantic fighting machines is simply too much for a single person, so they have to be piloted by a brave pair. But because they have to be mentally compatible (via a bit of science babble called Drifting), suitable persons tend to be related (though it isn’t a definitive pre-requisite). During this Drift, their minds are linked, exposing all their personalities and memories to the other. It seems though, that whilst the initial battle was won by the humans, that the Kaiju upped the stakes, and the World started looking at alternative, more defensive methods (called hiding behind a giant wall) and the Jaeger program was effectively dismantled. The guts of the film takes things up on this point. The leader of the Jaeger program, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), is now in charge of a mere 4 Jaegers of various qualities, a limited number of Pilots and the loss of the backing from the World’s Government. He recruits the retired Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) whom we saw lose his brother Yancy (Diego Klattenhoff) while neurally connected in the opening action sequence. Despite attempting to pair Raleigh up with any number of aspiring volunteers, it is clear that the young Japanese girl Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) is easily the best fit. Pentecost is very against this idea, for a couple of reasons that are both not actually that surprising but maybe I will avoid in interests of plot spoilage. When the predictions and occasionally sloppy science of Mathematician Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) and Biologist Geiszler (Charlie Day) show that the Kaiju threat is about to increase, this rag-tag resistance hatch a plan that of course is the last chance saloon for the Human Race.
Of all our cast, I’d have to say Idris Elba made the biggest impression on me. He certainly has that screen presence to invest in a character to make them believable, even in as silly a story as this… Rinko Kikuchi was good too, but even as the female lead, I felt that she wasn’t given enough space to give her character the needed depth to fulfil the promise of her character’s potential.
My initial impressions were one of frustration. The extended and exposition heavy prologue made me think that this film was almost like a sequel to a film that had never been made. There was enough interesting things mentioned to fill up a complete movie, which this one would comfortably follow. However, once we got into the main storyline, I was rather impressed. Yes it is a B-Movie, but it is one put together with such care and obvious love for the genres it is paying homage too. The CGI work on both Robots and Aliens is impressive, and Guillermo del Toro has obviously worked hard on really creating a complete world here. Not only that but all the CGI work has a real sense of both scale and weight. For me it is doubly impressive as so much of the action scenes are taking place in Water, which is notoriously difficult to fake. And to make it a triple helping of impressive, whilst the battles are huge, you can actually see what is going on. Heck, there are even a couple of times you get to feel empathy for some of the monsters. It is a long way from men in Rubber suits.
Hear hear… now these monsters really move. They jump… they stalk, they pounce… and give a real sense of a true behemoth’s menace. Compared to them, the quaint old rubbersuit monsters look like spastic blind men fumbling around in a daze. Score one for modern CGI effects.
Now I mentioned I saw the film in 3D, and I do actually look forward to seeing it again in a more standard format, because as always things do get rather visually dark. It was also clear that the CGI stuff was all created from the bottom up, whilst the human moments were all done during post production. The latter is less successful (isn’t it always), and the fanboy in me thought it might have been rather cool for only the big sequences to actually be in 3D (remember when 3D movies only had a handful of 3D moments – put your glasses on now!).
Ahhhh!!! 3D glasses… sooo darn evil!!!
Acting is a mixed bag. Idris Elba is as great as usual, being both commanding, yet has a little twinkle in his eye showing us he knows how ridiculous it all is. Charlie Hunnam doesn’t really give us a great hero though, he is somewhat bland. I am willing to blame the script a little for this – these is a fair bit of character setup which isn’t fully followed up on. Rinko Kikuchi is perfectly fine as well, mixing it up as both rather hardcore and utterly vulnerable. The comic relief of Gorman and Day will probably spilt opinion, I think they could come across as rather annoying, but for me they managed to lighten the tone. Ron Perlman turns up with a fun cameo, which part of me wishes was just a little more involved in the plot.
Ahhhh… Ron Perlman… always a fun guy if you give him one of these over-the-top roles. Honestly… I never skipped a beat finding out he was the “oriental” crime boss, he’s just that quirky… The others… outside of Idris, I’d have to say they were all… acceptable… if not anything else.
The action is all good, but the real highlight is the flashback to Kikuchi’s past. It is a stunningly realised moment where a young girl is changed through the wreckage of her city. Little Mana Ashida utterly steals the show. In film about big things punching each other, the soul and the heart of the movie is contained in a young terrified girl.
Yeah…. Mana Ashida!! Such a little cutie!! That whole sequence in Tokyo was a perfect homage to those old Godzilla films seen through the eyes of one frightened little victim. It’s humbling to see how much scarier it is down there at street level when we’re used to seeing all that impersonal model cityscape smashing fun. A character like hers would have fit right in back in the day.
I do have a couple of complaints. First we have my usual – the film is overlong. Trimming maybe 15 minutes off of the running time would have made it a little less bum numbing. Secondly, I really feel that there was a whole aspect of the Drift, of sharing consciousness, of the issues when someone dies when you are connected, that is at best under-developed. There are hints of course, sentences dropped here and there. But I felt much more could have been made of this.
Here I’d disagree a bit… I came away wishing for about 15 minutes more… at least if it would have been used to make the Raleigh/ Mako romance seem more poignant and real. Maybe a flashback of her watching video of his old Kaiju missions during her resoration of the Mecha and becoming a “fangirl” with a secret crush… maybe a better mind-sharing moment in the “Drift” between Raleigh and adult Mako at a crucial moment. Something… it all just seemed too “forced” without something more like that. Just the hopeless romantic in me probably….
I’ll agree here actually. I would have handled a similar or longer running time is more was made of Mako’s more recent life and definatley more made of that romantic angle. Sure there were some furtive glances (and I notice there hasn’t been an Alice Eve furore about Charlie gratuitously getting his pecs out), but the whole “Moonraker” moment at the end seemed oddly too much.
So despite a number of issues, I had a huge amount of fun with this. It wasn’t the best big movie of the year (hello Iron Man 3), but it was a huge amount of fun, obviously put together with love. Highly Recommended.
I had loads of issues too…. mostly with the entire basic story plausibility… but darn it, yeah… it was a whole lot of crazy fun. If big honking monsters make you all nostalgic for the good ol’ days of Sci-Fi monster movies, you could do a whole lot worse than to catch this for some guilty pleasure fun.