Saturday, July 20, 2013

Pacific Rim: An Entertaining Summer Creature Feature

     I couldn't claim that I was "excited" for Pacific Rim when I first heard the premise (sometime last year): huge man-made robots clashing against giant alien monsters that climb through an alternate dimension worm hole way down in the deepest dark abyss of the ocean, wreaking havoc upon the Earth's most populated cities, laying waste with a few gigantic stomps. But the 10-year-old inside of me certainly was (there has to be a better way to say that). It sounded like a mixture of old Japanese monster movies and Transformers-esque special effects. In essence, that's essentially what Pacific Rim is. But thanks to director Guillermo Del Toro--who created a modern classic with Pan's Labyrinth and put an interesting twist on comic-book films with Hellboy and Hellboy 2--it strikes a cool balance between the two. Because of Del Toro's movie-making ability, Pacific Rim is one of the better films to watch in the theater this summer (it's beautiful and boisterous on the big screen), and though it falls into occasional CGI-overload confusion, it's an interesting and enthralling big-budget spectacle.
     At it's heart, Pacific Rim is Del Toro's love letter to those old films, and his geeky excitement is palpable when you witness the mega battles between the creatures and robots that are the size of skyscrapers. Set in the present day and then moving on to the near future, the film's plot is pure set-up to bring the vibrant destruction onto the screen: the aliens that float up from the crack in the Pacific Ocean are called Kaiju, and they're so full of bad-ass that no military (at first) has the power to stop them. They are fearsome creatures that destroy everything in their path, maiming national landmarks and noshing on any terrified humans that are standing nearby.
     Soon after the initial attacks, the World bands together all of their resources to create a defense that is capable to stand up to the Alien scum. These defensive robots are called Jaegers, and they're essentially massive robots with incredible technology that resemble Master Chief from Halo. Here's where things get a little wild: these robots are controlled not by one pilot but by two. In a process called "The Drift", the pilots' minds are linked together, experiencing the same memories of the past and intuition of what to do next in the fight. It's a left brain / right brain kinda situation, with each pilot controlling a portion of the Jaeger. It works best when the two pilots are compatible with each other, and that's determined by a training period to see who has a connection.
     Our main character is a man named Raleigh Becket, and he's a retired pilot that lost his brother when they were co-piloting an early Jaeger version during the first attacks of the Kaiju. He's a wild card, with a killer instinct and attitude that give him plenty of confidence. He gets brought out of retirement when Earth is facing its darkest hour by the Commander (Idris Elba, who was great on HBO's The Wire). To give our planet a fighting chance, he must work with a talented young woman (Rinko Kinkuchi) and two scientific minds (most notably Charlie Day, branching out nicely from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia).
     Obviously, this film is way more about action and destruction than acting and dialogue. And there's no doubt that Pacific Rim has an overall corniness to it, but it's a campy kind of corniness that's more often endearing than annoying. One could easily ask the question, "What makes Pacific Rim so much different than the Transformers films?" In other words, why is this film good and those "films" shit? Again, it comes down to Del Toro. In every one of his films, the human beings matter. They have living, breathing hearts. The awesome action that is shown supplements the needs and emotions of the human characters, instead of just creating an action set piece that looks like a slick car commercial.
     Pacific Rim looks absolutely incredible. I didn't see the film in 3-D, and I'm glad (it was post-converted to 3-D instead of filmed in 3-D). Without wearing the glasses, the colors were incredibly vivid and breathtaking. Other than a few of the night-time fighting scenes, the environments and special effects looked like they came directly from a painter's neon color palette. But like any mega-budget summer film, the CGI can grow a little tiresome. Especially when the robots and monsters clash in the darker light, and its tough to tell what's going on with all of the clanging.
     Ultimately, Pacific Rim is a good once watch. I don't think I'll be too interested to view it home unless an 80" flat screen magically appeared. Del Toro created a fun and amusing spectacle that pays homage to monster movies of yore with satisfying new ideas and tons of style with just enough substance: in other words, a great addition to this year's big-budget summer tent poles. Though I didn't enjoy it as much as couple other early summer films (Iron Man 3, Star Trek into Darkness), it's clear that with Del Toro's signature touch is one that makes just about any movie worth watching.  Just barely a (B+)

No comments:

Post a Comment