Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Pacific Rim review

By way of a disclaimer for my thoughts on Pacific Rim, I have to tell a quick story. My son loves giant monsters and giant robots. He's a fiend for Godzilla movies and something like Pacific Rim would normally be right in his wheelhouse. But whenever someone's asked him if he's excited for Pacific Rim, his response has been to shrug and say, "I wish it was Kill All Monsters." I can't say I blame him.

Anytime I analyze a movie, I try to follow Roger Ebert's advice about considering what the movie wants to be instead of what I wanted it to be. That can be difficult, but it's especially so when I've already created my own take on the genre. By definition, Kill All Monsters is what I want from a story about giant robots fighting giant monsters, so to the extent that Pacific Rim mirrors that, I'm thrilled. To the extent that it's different, I wish it wasn't. That doesn't mean that I think KAM is quantifiably better than PR, it just means that I'm too close to the genre to be an impartial judge and that you should take any of my criticism with a Jaeger of salt. It would feel more weird for me not to write about it though, so - as objectively as I can make myself be - here we go:

First of all, I really like the movie. There's a ton of stuff it does well and some things it does extremely well. The world-building is excellent and I love the origin of the monsters. It marries a couple of common kaiju origins in a unique way that leaves room for further exploration if we want it. The look of the Jaegers is cool and I also dug Guy Davis' monster designs (though I wish they'd been rendered in a way that differentiated them more: different colors or something). The two scientists are great comic relief and Ron Perlman's character may be my second favorite role he's played so far (after Hellboy). It's an exciting movie with everything I wanted to see in giant robots fighting kaiju.

I didn't totally love it though. Some of my problems were just aesthetic, like the silly-looking, synchronized movements of the mind-linked pilots. But there are story elements I wasn't fond of either. We're now entering SPOILER TERRITORY, so beware. It's awfully convenient for Pentecost to be able to drift with anyone just by clearing his mind. And I never felt a connection between Raleigh and Mako. I wanted more than just a sparring match and someone telling me that they're compatible. There's no chemistry between them and their relationship doesn't earn Mako's reaction over Raleigh's death. Mako's relationship with Pentecost felt more real, but even that could have used more development. I guess the unifying element of my complaints is that the movie took some shortcuts and would have been better if it had added some run time to flesh out some characters and spackle over rough spots in the plot.

Overall though, Pacific Rim is an exciting, fun film that's better - and certainly more original - than most other blockbusters. Had it paid a little more attention to its characters, it could have been great, but it's still a worthy film and one of the best kaiju movies I've ever seen.

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