So, I saw Pacific Rim Monday night. My initial impression remains solid: the movie was lacking. Before people start slapping me around, I did enjoy it, but it’s rare that I don’t enjoy a movie. A film has to be really, really bad before I’ll say skip it and give it the low rank of 1 on the Brown Scale.
Oh, there will probably be spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie, don’t read the rest of this post. You’ve been warned. Don’t bitch at me.
For what it was, Pacific Rim was excellent. It was a big, loud summer action movie. I’m a guy and, fuck yeah, I loved the idea of big robots fighting big monsters. It’s almost like a wet dream.
Then I realized I’m a thirty-coughhackcoughcough year old man and I need more than a hot blonde with rosy red lips to throw me into overdrive. Let’s face it, I’m at the age where I need to be fondled a little, coaxed, maybe even teased before I get aroused. In other words, I want to fully enjoy myself, not just get a quick, hard fuck in a back alley. I have my go-to movies for that sort of thing and, being at this discriminate age, I’m perfectly content with those. I don’t need to branch out, find a younger replacement; it all ends the same for me.
I think, in ten, maybe fifteen years, Pacific Rim is going to be that movie for the younger people watching it now.
Pacific Rim hits all expectations in the arena of CGI and graphics, of making the kaiju and the jaegers look stupendous. It’s really a marvel what del Toro and the FX team did. But really, when you break it down, that’s all they did. They give you the hot blonde (in fucking spades, man), but she’s nothing but a scared little girl underneath all the makeup and flashy clothes; she’s just playing dress up.
The filmmakers try to give us characters we can care for. Honestly, I’m not sure if they tried too much or if they didn’t try hard enough. Fuck, it’s the apocalypse, so everyone has suffered loss (entire cities are GONE), so here are my impressions.
Raleigh loses his brother in a kaiju fight. Now, this happens while connected in the “drift” piloting their jaeger. While you know Yancy dies, the film gives you beautiful shots of the malfunctioning jaeger instead of a moment with Raleigh. Oh, sure, we see him scream for a few seconds and then we’re back to the big robot again. Stunning CGI supersedes human emotion. For the loss.
Mako loses her whole fucking family during a kaiju attack. This flashback is better. Much better. A young Mako is seen running down the street, a single red shoe in her hand, screaming for her parents. Kid scenes always get to me since I have young kids and my cold dead heart comes alive for them. She’s filled with hatred for the kaiju (but who wouldn’t be?) and this is where the movie fails her character. She’s so goddamn meek and doesn’t stand up for herself to Stacker; he’s the one who tells her she can’t pilot because revenge will cloud her judgment, etc. Thank you, fucking Yoda.
At one point, the film tries to explain this away as her having respect for Stacker, admiration, and love. It’s a throwback to old Asian customs, I suppose, but really, we’re at the end of the world in modern times, so I only bought it the first time she walked away. After that, I wanted her to own up and stand her ground.
They even try to make you feel for Stacker, the hard ass military man. You know he has a soft spot for Mako from the start, mainly because Idris Elba is a fascinating and talented actor, and every time he looks at Mako, there’s love written all over his face. Of course, we have no idea why this is until much later in the movie… unless you’ve seen any action movie in the last decade or so, in which case it was obvious. So, yeah, he saves her as a kid (he’s the pilot of the jaeger that kills the kaiju that kills her parents) and raises her and now we have the whole father figure/mentor (ta da) role. He’s not just the hard assed military man trying to save the world with lines like this to Raleigh: “All I need is your compliance and your fighting skills.”
I’m not even going to talk about the humorous element provided by the scientists. They seemed a bit too whacky to fit into the obvious gloom and doom of the movie and I didn’t laugh once when either one of them were on the screen. Other than what they contributed to the plot by way of their discoveries, they could have not existed for me and the movie wouldn’t have suffered at all.
I do think the movie addressed the mutual attraction between Raleigh and Mako well. It was there, you could see it, but it was never overtly stated, only hinted at. The closest the movie comes to pointing it out is when Raleigh admits that he never had a reason to look forward to the future, until now. I memory serves, that’s in the middle of a jaeger/kaiju battle, though, so his timing is a bit… off.
But these are pretty stock characters and emotions in the action genre. We have the actual hard assed military guy who likes only his dad and his dog, the exotic oriental fighters (CRIMSON TYPHOON), and the stalwart Russian pilots (CHERNO ALPHA). Sure, there’s the unifying message that we must all coexist and work together if we’re going to beat the world ending problems (insert personal metaphor here) we face today. There’s the message about how even the screw-ups, the underdogs, the alternative to what’s current and popular all contribute to saving the day. It’s all there, man. Just as you’d expect it to be. None of them really rises above their intended stereotypes and the portrayals are mostly flat.
Let me compare Pacific Rim to the movie Battleship, another summer blockbuster that was, quite universally (critically, anyway), panned. Pacific Rim had a budget of 180 million dollars and Battleship 209 million, so they’re comparable. The special effects were just as good on Battleship as they were on Pacific Rim, keeping in mind Battleship wasn’t quite as grandiose. But nothing looked obviously fake, nothing was too far-fetched in the world they created.
In both movies, aliens attack from the ocean, we’re provided with a bleak scenario, our screw-up and underdog character that rises to the challenge after losing someone he loves (incidentally, it’s a brother in both movies), the hardnosed (with a soft spot military man), and a geeky scientist that acts as comic relief. Both had some minor continuity/plot issues, but nothing that really detracted from the extravagance.
Holy hell, they could almost be the same movie.
Battleship, based on a board game and not anime culture, is somehow considered less of a movie by folks. I’m not sure how that works. Battleship is every bit as good as Pacific Rim, if not slightly better. Why? Because Peter Berg lets you have time with the characters, lets you feel their losses as they mount up.
In the long run, though, Pacific Rim is just another action flick, and it gets the same ranking as Battleship, which is 2/5 on the scale. Go see PR for the spectacle, but don’t expect much more.
Unfortunately, I expected more. I don’t apologize for wanting intelligent sci-fi to come back. I’m tired of the stereotypical blonde fantasy and I’m not ashamed to show my age and admit to needing more to get my rocks off.