Archive for July, 2013

11172244_detGoing into ‘Pacific Rim’ was a bit worrisome.  On the one hand, you have a talented filmmaker, Del Toro, taking on a passion project, especially an original IP in a summer locked with remakes and sequels.  On the other hand, however, is the discontent many had with the marketing leading up to it – ‘too nerdy’ for some while the designs seemed ‘childish’ to others.  It’s safe to say, however, that ‘Pacific Rim’ is a fairly crowd-pleasing affair.  Although it has a lot of oddities about it all-around, ‘Pacific Rim’ is a very fun action homage to the mech/monsters of Japan.

‘Pacific Rim’ follows Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam), a pilot of a massive human-like weapon called Jaegers, created to battle against strange beasts called Kaijus that started rising from the sea.  However, through a series of events, Raleigh has been displaced for years before being asked to return once again to defend humanity against the monsters from his former commander, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba).  With the help of Stacker’s assistant, Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) and the team at the base, they need to prepare for the worst attacks to come.

The film is at it’s best when it balances the right amount of emotion and action without losing control of the choreography on screen.  Although the film is heavy in special effects, much like the best action movies, Del Toro is able to put a good motive and context behind the giants fighting on screen.  The two standout performances come from Hunnam and Elba who both give their roles a good amount of flavor and color along with a special shout-out to Ron Perlman who acts as a fascinating black market dealer named Hannibal and doesn’t get enough screen time.  Hunnam especially gets the best treatment with a terrific introductory sequence that not only helps set-up his motivation moving forward but some great chemistry with his brother character, Yancy (Diego Klattenhoff).  Fascinating characters help create an interesting pallet of individuals that may not always work, keeps the world blooming with interest.

Not to say that the effects are not up to snuff – the towering mech Jaegers have a great sense of weight and although the film limits the amount of Jaegers you get to see on screen, they all have interesting differentiations that surprise at the end of the film.  In addition to these great-looking mechs are two other key factors: cinematography and choreography.  There are some beautiful moments that never feel overly stylish but helps to really showcase the scope of the film such as a majestic moment in a snowy plane that juxtaposes two small humans next to a giant falling mech.  Choreography also helps to keep the action from being too messy and a headache to watch.  Del Toro and his team understand the beats and rhythms of good action films – letting the action relent when necessary before then creating a crescendo into a huge action moment.  Even better, there are surprises that keep on coming and add to some awe-inspiring action moments.  One final great positive note needs to come from Del Toro’s care of his inspiration.  From the usage (and explanation) of the terminology including kaiju and the themes/motifs that are either briefly touched on or repeatedly harkened back to, the film feels like it has a great solid foundation that keeps the film intact.

Perhaps the greatest knocks against the film are the weaknesses in some of the characterizations portrayed and the plot/script progression.  There are several cringe-worthy moments that feel somewhat like small homages to the film’s inspirations yet in execution, feels more out-of-place and unhelpful to the overall ‘big picture’.  One of these moments involve the romantic angle played between (spoilers, but really…you can see it a mile away) Raleigh and Mako.  Not only do they lack chemistry in conversation but their romantic build-up feels forced and rehearsed.  The film felt like it would have lent better to a mentor-mentee angle or a much more fleshed chapter structure that built up the back-story of these two lovebirds.  Instead, the romantic subplot will get laughs but for all the wrong reasons compared to the sense of attachment and gravitas that the film gets between Raleigh and his brother in the introduction sequence of the film.  This sense of awkward feelings comes up several times in the film’s script along with a lot of convoluted backstory that feels rushed and better told in another film or medium and disappointingly, it never lends the film to really be explored on a more psychological or going beyond just a fun, homage film.

‘Pacific Rim’ is a great example of how to create a fun, compelling action movie, even amongst a lot of dumb sections.  There is a lot that seems to go wrong with ‘Pacific Rim’ whether it’s an less than stellar romantic subplot or some terribly corny melodramatic moments.  However, Del Toro and his crew really excel with the rest of the film from a great sense of pacing and choreography to compelling visuals and wonderful sound design.  Best of all, ‘Pacific Rim’ has heart and cares about it’s characters and inspirations which it wears proudly throughout.  Again, ‘Pacific Rim’ has some definitive flaws yet pulls through with a solid foundation.  A great definition of what a summer blockbuster should be.  

Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Running Time: 131 Minutes
Rated: PG-13

The Wie muses: *** out of *****

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