Sunday, December 06, 2015

Pacific Rim

2013  ***1/2

If I didn't dislike splitting my ratings, I'd probably hand Pacific Rim four and a half stars for concept, production design and action, and then two and a half for all the other stuff.  If you can spare the four minutes, I highly recommend you watch the Honest Trailer belowIt really crystallizes many of my own thoughts, plus I'm kind of counting on it to cover some of the plot details for me.

The main reason I love this Honest Trailer is that they can't help themselves -- they have to acknowledge that this movie is freaking awesome.  While it may borrow its essence from extremely well-worn paths in the land of giant robot anime, Pacific Rim is something new and unique.  Nobody has made a movie like this.

Okay, ha ha ha.  In my face.

What I mean is, nothing Michael Bay has done can even touch the sheer scope of what you see here.  These machines are BIG, and there is a purity to that strategy that I absolutely love.  A monster too big to be harmed by missiles, machine guns and bombs?  Punch it!  The Honest Trailer makes a lot of that, but the movie transcends the joke by having giant punches be its actual mission statement.

The other thing this movie does that I love is show how the monster invasions permeated the culture (you may recall me going off on this in my review of Monsters, when the camera briefly falls upon a street mural depicting the creatures.)  In Pacific Rim's opening montage, we see sneaker brands, game shows and video games that are all influenced by the presence of kaiju.  Later you see that kaiju skeletons are sometimes left where they dropped, stripped of flesh and turned into buildings.  It's a fascinating take on the idea, and it underscores another of the movie's unique achievements, which is generating an entire pantheon of creatures with just one movie.  It took Toho decades to introduce this many monsters.

Wigga wittle snooky snooky!!  OH MY GOD MY LEG

Amusingly enough this chibi-style shot was the only group picture I could find, and this isn't even all the monsters.  Believe me, I know. We've got the video game and they're all in the roster, just itching for Zack to use them to kick my butt all over the screen.

During this past year when I haphazardly starting watching every kaiju movie ever made, I started refining my quest for the definitive monster movie we're all waiting for, whether we realize it or not. Cloverfield is almost it, except the monster design sucks.  Godzilla 2000 is almost it, but it's still rooted in the Toho tradition which means a certain amount of comedy and it's still guys in rubber suits.  (As much as I adore the rubber suits, I don't think the perfect monster movie I'm talking about is going to use them.)

Pacific Rim might come closer than any other movie, were it not for my beef.  So what is my beef? The problem with this movie becomes immediately apparent after the montage intro is over.  Within just a couple of minutes you hear the following lines delivered with no irony whatsoever:

"Hey kid.  Don't get cocky."

"A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do."

And it doesn't end there.  This is a prime example of poor Rodeo Clown management, and one that really seems avoidable just because it should be easy to avoid every single boilerplate action movie cliche one can think of.  But they didn't.

For example, the leader of the Big Robot project has to talk to a bunch of council members in suits about how their funding is cycling down, in favor of a giant wall built around the Pacific Ocean.  When a kaiju breaches the wall in an hour, you'd think that conversation would immediately turn around, but NOOO.  Another example is the needless conflict between the hero and another robot jock, thrown in so we can have more punches but really based on nothing.   The two research scientists are constantly yelling at each other for no particular reason, and when one character says that two kaiju have emerged from the dimensional rift at once, the reply is "What, no!  That never happened before!"  It's a line that makes me wish I was there, so I could say "Yeah, you know what else used to never happen before?  GIANT FUCKING MONSTERS."

These substantial problems notwithstanding, Pacific Rim works hard to earn its spot in the Hall of Monster Legends, and its work is appreciated in my house.  It is my hope that if you know the connective bits fall short, the monster-punching robot action will work for you like it works for me.  Pew pew!

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