Pacific Rim (2013)
I don’t believe the film I watched this morning was director Guillermo del Toro’s original vision. Except for some of the footage in Hong Kong (dark, rainy and ornate), the film looks nothing like movies from GDT’s legacy which includes several fine pictures. Films of course are a work in progress and evolve and are recut to meet patron approval and make money. GDT’s Pacific Rim (2013) looks to me to have been meddled with, in post production, by studio executives wanting a big financial return. (i.e. let’s blow things up real good and the fans will come). The film is full of loose ends and stupid characters. I’m sure the Chinese Jaeger Crimson Typhoon and pilots were added to increase ticket sales for the lucrative Chinese market.
GDT has openly stated that he is a huge fan of the Kaiju film genre, yet PacRim’s CG-rendered monsters look more a kin to creatures designed for a Peter Jackson Middle Earth spectacle. I found the monsters disappointing and the Jaegers uninspired. To me the only interesting robot was the massive Russian Cherno Alpha, with the looks of a giant conning tower planted on a no-nonsense chassis. It looks like something the Cold War era Soviets would have constructed.
Here’s the problem I have with PacRim: the Kaiju look the same. The Kaiju move the same. Yes, I know there is a crab monster (similar to Ganimes from Space Amoeba, 1970), a knife-head monster (inspired by Gamera foe Guiron?), a gorilla monster, Leatherback, which is an inspired design with blue tentacles and an EMP weapon, a flying monster, and others, but they all looked the same to me because they were all CG-rendered and the shots were composed to show action action action. The monsters never stop and are so buried under rain, water, explosions, smoke, dust and Jaegers we really never get a good view of them. The level 5 Kaiju is a total waste. Why even have the monster in the film? To me, the best Kaiju sequences are those newsreel-type clips in the opening moments, showing the destruction of the Golden Gate Bridge and later, a hatchet-faced monster cutting through an anti-Kaiju wall effortlessly (that monster design was original). Why make a film about giant monsters and then obscure them away so you can’t see them?
The script is full of cliché stereotypes -more unrealistic mad scientist types. Exobiologist and “Kaiju groupie” Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) is especially annoying. His rational counterpart Gottleib (Burn Gorman, The Dark Knight Rises) is better and relies on mathematical truths rather than intuition. Day is all over the place like he was in Horrible Bosses (2011). An unfinished plot thread has Geiszler “drifting” (neural interfacing) with a Kaiju brain and later the Kaiju seek him out for no explained reason. I’m sure there were cut scenes explaining the Kaiju attraction. Ron Perlman (Hannibal Chau) is fun as a black market Kaiju parts dealer, but his demise was predictable. There’s also a stupid Aussie character Chuck Hansen (actor Robert Kazinsky) who hates the hero. I like the three leads in Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost, Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket, and especially Rinko Kikuchi (Babel, 2006) as Mako Mori. Becket and Mori make up the pilot team, linked by way of the “drift”, of the analog Jaeger Gypsy Danger. Probably the film’s most interesting concept is the neural-net linking of two or more brains to control the robot Jaegers. We’ve seen a similar concept in the Toho submarine film Lorelie (2005).
I had problems with the ending which seemed too familiar to last year’s The Avengers. Someone has to come up with an alternative way to collapse a wormhole.
For all my gripeing, PacRim is enjoyable fun. If giants robots battling Kaiju is your thing then PacRim is your summer treat. Don’t see this film in 3D (I had problems watching it in a garden variety DLP projection). Here come the sequels…. Booooo.
Pacific Rim. 2 1/2 stars out of 4. Disappointing film from a capable director.