Monday, July 22, 2013

[Movie Review] Pacific Rim

I paid for my ticket to Pacific Rim with the promise that Guillermo del Toro would spend the next two hours showing me 1) giant robots, 2) giant monsters, and 3) said titans beating the ever-loving crap out of each other and wrecking major metropolises in the process. And for this investment of eight dollars and two hours of my attention, I was richly rewarded in these respects.

A lot of people have complained that this movie is stupid, that the characterization is inconsistent, that it's too big and hectic and loud. To them, I say: it's a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters. What did you expect? This is a modern-day update of Godzilla movies, and nonsensical plotlines are part and parcel to the kaiju genre. If you go to this movie expecting believable science, then you're in the wrong theater.

This is a movie about action, on the grandest possible scale. It is not Shakespeare. It is not The Godfather. It will not make you weep, or think too hard, or care deeply about any of the characters. It will, however, make you jump out of your seat and applaud, if you let it.

Pacific Rim makes no pretension at being smart, or even at having especially realistic psychology or characterization. There is an English character in this movie who actually and unironically utters the phrase "by Jove". The main character reveals that he speaks Japanese in a single line in Act I, and it's never mentioned again, despite the fact that this would greatly ease communication with his Japanese co-pilot. The kaiju are explicitly and repeatedly said to be highly radioactive, yet nobody wears any kind of protection while standing around their corpses or their various organs floating in glass tanks. (In one scene, we see a business that's been built inside the skull of one of these creatures. I get that China doesn't have any such thing as workplace safety regulations, but come on!) They even make the erroneous assertion, easily spotted by and grade-school paleontologist, that dinosaurs were so big that they, like the kaiju, had to have two brains.

Despite my nerd-rage at some of the movie's grossly-inaccurate science, I had a blast watching these monstrosities carving swaths of high-definition destruction through harbors, oceans, and major cities. People really like to toss around the word "awesome", but really that's the only word that can reasonably be applied to to watching a robot the size of a building take on an extra-dimensional supermonster while wielding an oil-tanker as a katana:
awe·some  [aw-suh m]
adjectiveinspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear; causing or inducing awe
I mean, this movie really does a good job of impressing upon the viewer that the Jaegers, despite their tremendous size and arsenal, are hard-pressed to defeat their kaiju foes. The first monster of the movie (the creatively-named Knifehead) tears through the solid steel plating of the heroic Gipsy Danger with its bony head-protrusion like a bullet through a denim jacket. Even with all the wealth and wisdom and prayers of the most powerful nations on Earth behind them, the viewer never feels for a moment that the Jaegers are anything but dangerously outmatched by these hurricanes of claw and bone and radioactive super-acid.

Let's be honest: giant robots are unrealistic and impractical to begin with. The science behind them (and especially behind equally-large organic creatures) is highly questionable, even when you dress it up in technobabble. But scrupulously accurate science doesn't make the 12-year-old in me squeal with delight; the sight of rocket-punches, chest-mounted missiles, and nuclear-powered plasma cannons, however, does make that happen.

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