Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Pacific Rim

Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Written by Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro

     Prehistoric, gigantic monsters fighting against human operated robot-like machines is the main concept in Guillermo del Toro's new blockbuster Pacific Rim. Unlike other summer escapist films, although this film does contain some ridiculous feats of stupefying action, this one is more creative and enhanced with a strong performance from a wonderful actor in Idris Elba. That is not to say that all the acting is great by any means at all, but I felt less annoyed and bored with this summer film than I have with the likes of Iron Man 3 and the abysmal The Lone Ranger. Del Toro's imagination and his truly appreciative historical knowledge of film and film history, mainly those Japanese monster movies,  allows Pacific Rim to be an enjoyable, fun blockbuster that shows he can direct big and smaller budget films with style and wonder.
     Pacific Rim really feels like a kids action film. Even though its more than this, it is basically robots, although they are operated inside these enormous machines by humans, versus giant, Godzilla-like monsters. Del Toro creativity comes through so beautifully and imaginatively with the different ways in which the numerous monsters look like and the different ways in which the machines are constructed. The monsters, being known as Kaiju, and the human created machines are called Jaegers. Both are insanely huge. They are as big as skyscrapers, if not bigger. These dinosaur looking creatures, who have been stuck in an interdimesional fissure underneath the Pacific Ocean, have finally been awakened and have forced there way back to the surface to take over Earth. Basically environmental, and here is a little eco-political point in the story, and human interference with the climate has allowed these Kaiju the ability to survive on the planet and they have come out of hiding. The Jaegers have to fight and defeat these sea-dwelling monsters to save the planet from total annihilation.
     The film exhibits some truly breathtaking images that are not all just explosions and destruction, although there is plenty of that as well. In the opening, where a Kaiju rises from the Pacific and destructs the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, del Toro exhibits quite an amazing piece of visual splendor. The problem, and I love del Toro as a filmmaker and film historian, is the absurd action that has come common place in all big budgeted, blockbuster CG-films. The action at times, especially when the Jaegers are fighting two Kaiju's at once, is too long. It takes away from the momentum of the story and is just exhausting after awhile. End it already. I know movie goers these days want to see that exciting, CG-driven action but not for twenty minutes in a row. The part that really was too much was when a Jaeger was 20 to 30 miles in the air and descends back to Earth and lands right on its feet. I didn't buy it and believed it would have been destroyed on impact or at least more damaged than it appeared. Another somewhat unbelievable aspect was the combining of two Jaeger operators thoughts and minds to operate the machines. Hmmm, OK, but it seems there would be more problems then accomplishments with this process. That's summer films for you though. 
     Those annoying set backs aside, the creativity brought forth by del Toro and fellow screenwriter and story creator Travis Beacham brought something new to the screen that was not an unnecessary remake or a boring sequel made for dollar signs. I enjoyed seeing the creative mind and imagination of del Toro come through in the designs of the Kaiju and Jaegers. I prefer the del Toro that crafted amazing films such as, Cronos, The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth to this one, but I believe his mind is so full of images and stories that he has the ability to make small and large scaled films that frankly are not boring and that do not feel like rehashes of something we have seen before. Yes, there is an obvious reference to the classic Japanese monster films like Godzilla and Mothra here, but it feels like an appreciation of those films. 
     Major props to Idris Elba also. An actor that is definitely on the rise and brought some gravitas and sophistication as a former Jaeger operator, now Commander of the pushed aside Jaeger force. He embraces the role with intensity and the importance we have seen from him all the way back to his wonderful role in the BBC crime series Luther. In other del Toro films the acting usually never falters but in this one, with so much focus on the CG and action, the main actor, a washed up former pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) is the main problem. He is one note, out of place and really did not make me believe a word that was coming out of his mouth. The cockiness is way too forced and his performance dragged the film down for me. The doctors, played by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman, are over-the-top but add a comedic tone to balance the action, as well as del Toro's mainstay Ron Pearlman, who is always great and is wonderful as the devious, Kaiju black marketer Hannibal Chau. Guillermo Navarro's cinematography is on point as always and the visual transitions are beautiful as with all of del Toro's films.
     In the end, Pacific Rim is a creative, but slightly problematic film. The visual splendor and imagination of Guillermo del Toro is amazing as always and shows that a summer blockbuster can be an enjoyable and new experience at the movies. I still prefer the more independent driven side of this director but I would rather give a chance on a big budget film with del Toro behind the script and camera then the piles of junk that Hollywood continues to fork out to the masses on a yearly basis. 

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