Review Pacific Rim film review by KamenRiderNecro
Written By KamenRiderNecro on 2014-01-07 09:42:18
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The more I read about “Pacific Rim” last year, the more excited I grew over it. I've always been a sucker for mecha, and for daikaiju movies since my childhood (for about 40 years, now, I'm happy to say, so I can pull rank on the hipsters out there), and all the geekier than thou types out there who were rambling on about how “derivative” this movie was and playing Spot The Influence with it before they even watched it irritated me to no end. Suspend disbelief at the door and have fun with it, sez me, and that's just what I did with “Pacific Rim”, and ended up being immensely delighted with it. It is a lean, taut, economical action romp that yet has more under the hood than that going on. I am a huge fan of Guillermo Del Toro's work, since he puts his heart into everything he does and his nerd cred is impeccable, and when he gleefully admitted to the Japanese press that this was his love letter to their pop culture, this proved me right. So what about the movie itself?
First of all, as mentioned, this is a lean, economical script with this side of no excess that moves along at a healthy clip, but yet is also measured and deliberate in its intensity. Things happen when they're meant to happen, and while there are many of the usual tropes you find in action movies, they're executed with conviction and with some subtle twists to them as only Del Toro can deliver. Lots of subtleties that reveal themselves upon repeated viewings. It really doesn't bog down at all, though there are moments of quiet among the desperation and action that really add to the movie's heart and to its intensity level.
It is also impeccably cast, with every actor in it, no matter how small their part, contributing something special to it that elevates the movie into a realm well past Michael Bay's hack work. Charlie Hunnam brings an understated. grizzled weariness to Raleigh Beckett, humbled by his loss and experiences since then that renders him instantly likable; Idris Elba brings a stern, quiet intensity to Stacker Pentecost, who is a Bad Mofo and doesn't have to advertise it; Charlie Day & Burn Gorman, as Newt & Gottlieb, are a wonderfully cantankerous and nerdy pair in a science bromance that goes deeper than implied at first. Even the actors who don't get much screen time add a little something special to this, with layers that are implied without being stated to their characters (like the Kaidnovskys, pilots to Cherno Alpha, and the Hansen father/son team).
Our female lead, Rinko Kikuchi, gets a paragraph to herself, because reasons. She is not just another pretty face there to make the boys look good. Hers is a nuanced performance where she does much with her eyes and facial expressions, that really carries Mako Mori into being a believable persona. (I confess that it was the second time around I noticed this, due to the fact I was reeling from the action scenes the first time around.) She is a strong female lead without falling into the cliches that Hollyweird would have us believe make a female lead such; she has flaws and fears that add to her character, and that makes you cheer all the more for her when she decisively overcomes those fears and past traumas at a crucial moment in the movie. Take yer Bechdel test and stick it, sez me; she does just fine for herself, and while Raleigh is there to egg her on, while he is her biggest fan and believes in her throughout, he is not doing everything for her. I think it's no coincidence that one of the key lines in the movie from him is “Come on, Mako! Let's do this together!” He's encouraging her, not coddling her, and I find that more feminist friendly than anything more heavy handed that might be deemed such by the mainstream. Yes, she moons over him—he's a handsome fellow, what straight woman wouldn't?--but another thing I loved was that any possibility at all of any kind of romantic potential was reserved until the last moments of the movie, firmly subverting Hollyweird tradition.
Did I mention there are action sequences in this movie, he said with tongue firmly in cheek. Oh, are there action sequences. The Kaiju are a terrifying threat, brought to life with amazing SPFX from Industrial Light & Magic, and they rip into and apart the Jaegers—equally well executed on their part—like tin cans! I've had people ask me why some of the Jaegers went down so easily in this movie, and they obviously weren't paying attention to a key line in the movie from Charlie Day as Newt; the first wave were colonists, the second wave are exterminators. The Kaiju are bringing all their power to bear to wipe out humanity, and it shows. If the Jaegers had defeated them with ease, where would the drama and sense of desperation over impending doom be? There is plenty of those elements, as various malformed beasts from the Breach come surging forth, and you really get an idea of the kind of destruction and mayhem that will ensue when a 300-foot, 3,000 ton behemoth comes calling to your town, in this movie. Real life physics aside (did I mention to suspend disbelief?), the Jaegers are a convincing screen presence as well, and the battle scenes are breathtaking, to say the least. Watching one of them getting beaten over the head with an ocean tanker is also an inspired moment of lunacy!
Yet there is also a heart under all the action and drama. There are human feelings and needs and thoughts on display as well. Stacker Pentecost's secret he's keeping; the Hansen team's father/son interplay and Chuck's (the son's) inevitable smackdown that cools his jets; the unspoken bond between the Kaidnovskys; the harrowing scene where we visit Mako's past and see just how brutally the Kaiju devastated her home town—Japanese child actress, Mana Ashida, is amazing in this scene and every time I want to reach through the screen and hug little Mako and tell her everything will be OK. The scene where Pentecost has to bid Mako farewell to sacrifice himself for the greater good is sweet and brings tears to my eyes, especially with the one unsubtitled line in Japanese she speaks to him at the end of the scene in question. (Yes, I know what she says, and it's totally apropos)
In short, this was the best movie of the summer, the Little Movie That Could, and it's pathetic that Hollyweird couldn't be bothered to promote it more and better since it didn't have a number in its title and wasn't a known quantity. It was called a “vanity project” in a disparaging manner, and I could not disagree more. This is not about Del Toro's vanity; it is about a strong story told in a different manner than usual, and I am proud my money went towards it. Whether you see it for the action or to notice what else there is to it than that, I will recommend this over the latest Transformers sequel any time, any day.