Monday, July 29, 2013

Another Way Too Late Review: "Pacific Rim"

Another late review. In this one, I pretty much just geek out over how much I love Pacific Rim.

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, written by del Toro and Travis Beacham, starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman, and Clifton Collins, Jr. - Rated PG-13 

Any movie that makes me grin like a little kid during every action sequence deserves my highest rating.

Big summer movies can and should be fun movies to watch.  Since I now watch movies with an admittedly amateur critical eye, I sometimes forget to just sit back and enjoy the movie.  But it’s not just that.  Hollywood more often focuses on darkness now (e.g. Star Trek into Darkness) because it’s cool or something.  There was a time when serious subject matter, like the possible end of the world, was treated a bit lightheartedly.  Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) has made a career out of this, but lately he’s lost his touch (White House Down is a step in the right direction, albeit a small step).  Enter Guillermo del Toro to save the day with Pacific Rim.
Del Toro is most famous for his Hellboy films and his visually stunning Pan’s Labryinth.  Despite the comic-book or fairy tale nature of those films, they were mainly focused on telling an entertaining and fun story without worrying too much about reality.  Pacific Rim is exactly the same.  It’s insanely visually impressive (more on that in a bit), but it never takes itself too seriously.  Pacific Rim is about giant robots (called jaegers) fighting giant inter-dimensional monsters (called kaiju).  How serious and dark could you possibly make a film like this?  Thankfully, del Toro just wants to have fun.  Pacific Rim isn’t a cartoon or anything, but it expects the audience accept the world of the film and enjoy it. 
The story isn’t completely carefree, however.  The world is still ending, you know.  Pacific Rim focuses on American jaeger pilot Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam), but it is truly a global story.  The focus is on humans, not nations.  This is almost like the ending to a trilogy in that the war between the humans and monsters has been going on for years, and this is the story of the last chance to defeat the monsters for good.  Some critics have made the end of a trilogy comparison as a negative aspect of the film, but I have no problem with that.  Don't we have enough long, drawn out franchises?  Pacific Rim is the rare blockbuster that doesn’t feel like the beginning of a long series.  There might be sequels in the future (although the film is not exactly tearing up the box office), but this works as a satisfying stand-alone story. 
A film that can be boiled down to robots vs. monsters isn’t all that worried with plot, or at least I'm not that worried about it.  This is a sci-fi action film, and it features awesome set pieces.  Each battle between the jaegers and kaiju is different from the last.  It’s very easy to tell what’s going on in each fight, and even though it is obviously done with special effects, the action has impact that feels very real.  Also, the destruction of major cities doesn’t make you feel awful because in the world this film is set in people are used to sudden evacuations so you know that you’re not seeing thousands of people die in each scene (unlike Man of Steel).  Most importantly, each fight scene had me grinning like a little kid.  I lost myself in the action.  Normally, some issue with the action (camera movements, CG quality, etc.) would distract me a bit.  That didn’t happen with Pacific Rim.  The only bad thing about the action is that it eventually had to end.

Del Toro just has a way of creating worlds that I never want to leave.  Pacific Rim certainly doesn't have as vivid a world as Pan's Labyrinth or the Hellboy series, but those films lend themselves to a more complex world.  Pac Rim still feels very much like a different world since it takes place well into the battle for the planet.  The most important aspect of the design of the film isn't so much the world as it is the jaegers and kaiju.  I liked the designs of all of them, though it would have been nice to see more battles in the daylight without rain. 

Pacific Rim is just a movie that works for me on every level.  I loved the world, the jaegers and monsters, the cheesy comic relief, the action, etc.  Obviously many people will disagree with me.  That's fine.  I do take issue with some people who start to dispute the science of the film because, well, why would you take a scientific approach to a movie about giant robots and interdimensional monsters?  It's like judging Call of Duty in a negative light because it doesn't treat bullet wounds in a realistic manner.  It is what it is.  For me, Pacific Rim was completely engrossing, and it allowed me to simply watch and enjoy a movie in a way that doesn't happen very often.  In fact, this review is so late because I've had a hard time thinking about the movie in a critical light at all.  I just want to tell people that it's awesome and they should check it out.  It's all kind of pointless now that it's been out so long, but I started writing this a couple weeks ago, and I don't feel like just trashing it.  Anyway, Pacific Rim is awesome.  You should check it out.

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