Sunday, July 6, 2014

Review: Pacific Rim

I like to think that while I may seem a complicated man, I am actually simple when it comes to certain things. One of those things is giant monsters, which I adore. And I happen to adore giant robots almost as much as giant monsters, which I must blame of equal parts of growing up on Transformers in the 80s and watching movies like Robot Jox. Hell, the Power Rangers manifested into our collective consciousness during my childhood, so yeah I liked seeing giant things fight one another.

Truly a dramatic performance like no other. Hamlet? Pfft, please.
Bearing all of this in mind, it was no big shocker that I got really excited when Pacific Rim was announced. A big budget film featuring people piloting giant robots to battle kaiju? Sign me up for that! I was quite literally chomping at the bit to throw all of my money at Guillermo del Toro. I still am, honestly, as the man puts out a lot of great films, so his involvement was as much a selling point as Michael Bay's involvement in anything is a detriment. Did the film live up to my expectations? Well, read on and find out.

Look at that face. You know he loves his job as much as Ed Gein loves leftovers.

The movie starts with a general history lesson, which is great because there are details that definitely need to be gone over before the story really gets going. Apparently, in 2013 the first kaiju, Trespasser, makes landfall in America and just does his best to ruin our shit. I mean, clearly we're not prepared for this fight at this point. After a lot of missiles, bullets, and assorted thrown objects, the axe-headed bastard finally falls. But we soon learned that he's not a solo act as other similar happen and the United Nations decides that the world needs to get its collect ass in gear if we're going to survive. Thus begins the Jaeger program, which involves two pilots operated in tandem to steer a giant robot capable of giving the kaiju a taste of their own medicine. And let me tell you, that medicine is beatdown flavoured.

Not the tastiest flavour, as you can imagine.
Now, to our story, we find that the Kaiju War has been going on for 7 years and we're introduced to our protagonist, Raleigh Becket, and his older brother/co-pilot, Yancy. The two are well-trained and have a pretty cool Jaeger by the name of Gipsy Danger that they've managed to bag 4 kaijus in their time as pilots. Not too shabby. But, they manage to meet their match in Alaska when they ignore their orders to save a fishing boat and end up facing off against Knifehead, who appropriately seems to have a very blade like protrusion coming from his cranial region. It seems to be going fine until he sucker-stabs them and rips into their Jaeger's head and noms up poor Yancy. Raleigh manages to finish the knifey monster off, but crashes on the shoreline from the strain of piloting solo.

I might need to lay down for about 3 years...
3 years later, we see he's given up on being a pilot and instead is a construction worker building walls that are just begging to be smashed by over-enthusiastic kaiju. I mean, really? This is the world leaders' big plan to keep us safe? I'm pretty sure that if they couldn't smash them the big monsters could probably climb them. And because bad ideas go with government liks cookies and milk, they also shut-down the Jaeger program right before a kaiju named Mutavore tears through the Sydney wall. Ah, it's nice to see immediate vindication in a film. Striker Eureka, Austrailia's own Jaeger, manages to stop the kaiju and we get our first peek at the pilots, Hercules Hansen and his son Chuck. This is important because Chuck is our de-facto asshole character, because every story needs one of those. He really wants to live up to the role too, as he calls our female lead a bitch and never stops trying to pick a fight with Raleigh.

What d'ya mean I'm a bad Aussie stereotype? Them's fighting words!
Anyway, Stacker (otherwise known as Idris Elba) talks Raleigh into coming with him to Hong Kong to pilot Gipsy Danger again, which Reily isn't hot on due to the fact that being connected to his brother when he was eaten by a giant monster kinda sucked immensely. But go he does to the Shatterdome, the last line of defense because all of Earth's governments ignored the televised attack on Sydney that involved destroying their awesome wall that totally can't be destroyed. Here we meet Mako Mori, Stacker's adopted daughter and head of the refurbishment of Jaegers. We discover Raleigh can be charming in Japanese, and we get introduced to the two most important people in the film, Newt Geiszler & Hermann Gottlieb. They're the science boys and they get along about as well as two starving cannibals stuck on a deserted island. WHy are they the most important? Well, I will tell you why.

I mean, if this visual representation of them isn't enough.
You see, they understand the kaiju better than anyone. Hermann is a master as mathematics and has figured out a pattern that they will be using in their attacks. Meanwhile, Newt goes against the wishes of everyone and connects his mind to a piece of living brain from a kaiju. There he learns that they're all clones that are grown and the point of them is that they're here to clean house so the bossmen can move in. Not the best outcome for us, yes? So the general plan is to drop a nuke into the fissue in the Pacific Ocean that the kaiju are coming out of when it opens wide enough. This means that three Jaegers have to run interference while the fourth drops the package. It's not a bad plan, except for the fact that two kaiju arrive early and destroy two of the Jaegers and disable a third. Where is our hero? Well, he found that he wanted Mako as his co-pilot as she is the best at reading him, but after an incident in the docking bay they both get dry-docked. But Stacker is up against a rock and two giant monsters, so Gipsy gets to go play. Meanwhile, our friend Newt went into the city to meet a black market kaiju parts dealer who might be able to get him a living whole brain to work with. But it turns out that since he connected minds with one, now one is after him.

I said no kaiju at the sleepover! Gawd!
This makes it easier for Gipsy to take down the gorilla-like Leatherback before chasing down Otachi and clipping her wings before she can munch on Newt. It turns out the winged wonder has a bun in the oven though and Newt is joined by Hermann as they both delve into the creature's mind to learn more about the enemy. Our heroes find they're short a few Jaegers and Stacker take's Herc's spot due to the older Aussie having a broken arm. The science boys show up in time to tell them that they have to ride a kaiju through the rift, as it only opens for them, and we get the mother of all undersea battles as they have to face off against three kaiju. During the battle, Stacker and Chuck make themselves go boom to take out two kaiju while Raleigh and Mako take out the biggest one and ride it down. The plan is to use Gipsy's reactor as a bomb, but Raleigh notices Mako's oxygen is out, so he gives her his and ejects her as he descends into the rift into the alien world where he sets the reactor to blow and just barely escapes. Mako finds his pod and revives him just in time for the end credits.

That's right, I saved his ass! Who's awesome? MAKO MORI, BITCHES!
Now, getting down to brass tacks, as they say, was it a good film? Yes. I would say it had some problems here and there, but overall it was a very entertaining flick that didn't feel stupid or tedious. It had the right balance of action and character development. It was also backed up by a cast of highly capable actors like Idris Elba, Ron Perlman, Charlie Hunnam, Charlie Day, and the irreplaceable Rinko Kikuchi. It sadly got stiffed by the Academy Awards, but that hasn't stopped it from gaining a huge fanbase since its release. There's even a very entertaining comic strip series known as Pacific Swim which gives the writer's own distinct spin on what they think happened to all the Jaeger pilots who are presumed dead. It's especially notable for creating the character of Comrade Squid, who is essentially just a squid that the Russian pilots adopt.

We may not have gotten mentioned in review but we will always have Comrade Squid.
In today's world it's hard to find movies that can be action-packed while still maintaining some semblance of value mentally. Sure, this film doesn't really follow all logic or true science, but at least it tries to give us the illusion that it might be. When I look at other films like the recently released Transformers: Age of Extinction all I can think is, "they're just marketing stupid as selling point there". And it's true. There's nothing really there in that film that hasn't been done in the first Transformers film Bay pumped out. It's just another monster being sent out based on his other monsters, not unlike the kaiju in Pacific Rim. Only his monsters are real and every time we support them we're telling the bossmen he makes them for that we want more of the same. Luckily, Pacific Rim 2 is on the way now, along with an animated series and a new ongoing comic, because the fans actually really want these things. We've pleaded for them and now they're going to be real. Maybe if we plead enough de Toro will sic Knifehead on Michael Bay. Until next time, I'll be here struggling to write coherent sentences for your enjoyment. Later days.

He's going to probably make 4 more of these movies...

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