Monday, July 15, 2013

Pacific Rim Review

Let’s just put this out there: I loved Pacific Rim. The box office wasn’t fantastic, and I’ve heard that movie execs are a bit disappointed. One quote I heard is that “the audience that showed up for the movie are the same folks that knew they were going as soon as the project was announced.” That’s a crime, because this is a real crowd-pleaser.

I love my super-hero movies, but the cost of all that success is that relatively few big-budget action movies have original ideas. It is much easier to re-imagine The Lone Ranger or attempt to adapt a book than it is to come up with new material. Pacific Rim’s high concept draws on the past “Godzilla vs. giant robots,” but the execution is so much more than that simple summary.

As always, Guillermo Del Toro has created a multi-layered world where he’s thought out everything. Even better, he tells us the new status quo in the opening few moments through Charlie Hunnam’s voiceover as Jaeger pilot Raleigh Becket. We actually get to SKIP THE ORIGIN! THANK GOODNESS! I’m sick and tired of seeing heroes starting off and earning their place. It’s an important part of the hero’s journey, but it takes up a lot of minutes!

By skipping all that opening growth, we get to see a lot more monsters, Jaegers, and awesome locales. The names are tremendous. This movie gives you Gypsy Danger, Crimson Typhoon, the Shatterdome, and more. It is a comic book movie that went straight to film! And each Jaeger and monster has its own codename and design, there is so very much to look at!

In Pacific Rim, the giant Kaiju monsters have irrevocably changed the world, making it a much more dangerous place. The Jaeger program is humanity’s one and only defense against the gigantic beasts. Naturally, when combat breaks out between these gargantuan combatants, the battle often leaves a huge trail of destruction through coastal cities. For those of you who read my Man of Steel review, you might be wondering why I’m OK with the destruction here when Superman upset me so much. I’ll tell you; THE JAEGER PILOTS ACTUALLY TRIED TO MINIMIZE CASUALTIES.

Hunnam puts his own life at risk to save a fishing boat in the opening minutes. Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentecost is always giving orders to evacuate civilians away from dangerous areas. Unlike careless Superman who barrels into Smallville, the Jaegers make every effort to keep people safe. From what I understand, the reason the Jaegers don’t use more bladed weapons is because the Kaiju blood is toxic and poisonous, and the Jaegers want to minimize the exposure. (It’s a stretch, I’ll admit. I’d think those swords would get used a lot more.)

I haven’t even gotten to the automatic upgrades this movie earns. The awesome voice for Gypsy Danger’s onboard artificial intelligence? That’s a half-letter upgrade. The Unit’s Max Martini in a great supporting role? That’s a half-letter upgrade. A thrilling soundtrack that psyches you up for each fight? That’s another half-letter. So the WORST this thing could get would have been is a C-. 

But this movie is a heck of a lot better than that. It boasts clear choreography for the fight scenes and tremendous monsters designed by BPRD’s Guy Davis. (And these are very recognizable as Davis monsters. They made me miss BPRD!) Other than a few moments, the fighting is crystal clear and well laid out; this is the anti-Transformers.

I’ve seen the movie once; I’m planning to go again. I’ve bought two songs off the soundtrack. My computer wallpaper is now proudly showing off Gypsy Danger. See this movie and reward Hollywood for actually making an original action movie that trusts its audience to get it.

This is my favorite movie of the year. 

Pacific Rim is GOOD. 

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