Saturday, July 13, 2013

Seeing Is Believing Movie Reviews: "Pacific Rim" (2013)

Let’s talk for a minute about monster movies. As my “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” review made clear, I’m a huge fan of giant monster movies. But, that doesn’t mean I love all giant monster movies, also made clear by my last review. Like any other film, I have my standards when it comes to monster movies and if a film fails to live up to those standards, then I’m going to look down on that film.

What is it about monster movies that makes me so interested in them? What draws me into these types of films more than most others? Why do I love them so much?

I have no clue.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved watching giant monster movies, especially the Godzilla movies. Yet whenever anybody asked me why I enjoyed these particular movies so much, I could never give a satisfactory answer. I’ve always hoped that, as I gained more knowledge of film and developed my tastes in cinema that the answer to this question would become clear.

It still eludes me to this day.

Maybe it’s because of the idea of monsters: These creatures that defy all the realms of logic and reality, but exist anyway. That they shouldn’t be able to walk around and destroy us, but they’re able to just the same. Maybe it’s because humans are in part to blame for these abominations of life through nuclear testing, pollution or exploring where we weren’t ready to go yet.

Maybe it’s because of nostalgic effect. That these films bring me back to an earlier age of happiness in my life and provide a distraction from reality.

In any case, I’m not sure. What I am sure about is that the newest giant monster film, “Pacific Rim” does remind me of my childhood years and does a great job at providing solid entertainment. 

As a giant monster movie fan, I wholeheartedly approve of “Pacific Rim.”

The film begins with a hole in the Pacific Ocean opening up, creating a portal between our world and a world full of kaiju (Japanese for “beast” or “monster”). Somehow, only kaiju are able to go through this portal and wreak havoc on several costal cities. 

After several kaiju attacks, the world leaders decide they’ve had enough of this and band together to create the ultimate defense against the monster attacks: the Jeagers (German for “hunter”), giant robots built to combat the beasts.

As more kaiju begin to pile through the rift, and Jeagers are slowly taken out, Colonel Stacker (Idris Elba) enlists the help of a former Jeager pilot, Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and a young recruit, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) to command one of the last remaining Jeagers and take down the kaiju threat once and for all.

But let’s face it, the story is rather arbitrary in getting to the good parts: the monster/robot battle scenes. While I’m okay with a story being secondary to the action, I do prefer to see a well crafted story that blends a good human element with some excellent monster bits in a seamless fashion. Unfortunately, “Pacific Rim” doesn’t really do this, but that’s fine.

However the battle scenes themselves are spectacular. Every shot of the Jeagers and kaiju battling is beautiful to look at. The Jeagers are brightly colorful and stick out from the contrasting colors of the kaiju. When most of the fight scenes are taking place in cities like Hong Kong, it really feels like they’re in Hong Kong and not some computer generated city. 

You can feel the weight of a punch from one of the robots and it’s so interesting to see the different kind of variety in attacks and motion that the monsters have. To me, that’s the sign of a good action scene.

Not how many explosions or CGI moments you can pack in, but the weight and the strength behind the attackers. How varied and unique the attacks and powers can get. That’s the power of “Pacific Rim.”

If there’s one other non-action bit worth mentioning about this film, it’s how they’re able to build up this world of monsters and robots so fast and effectively. 

Early on, during the opening montage that explains everything the audience needs to know, we see images of the Jeager pilots being treated like celebrities and television shows ridiculing the kaiju because, at that point, the Jeagers make them look like jokes.

I have always enjoyed these scenes way more than I should. They help to establish how different this particular world is from our own. What makes them unique and why we should pay attention to what’s happening to them. There’s always something to learn and observe from watching a world that slightly differs from ours.

Because if giant monsters started to invade our world and were practically immune to modern weaponry, would we really act any differently?

Overall, I would describe “Pacific Rim” much in the same vein that I describe a film like “The Avengers.” It’s a perfect summer blockbuster. Everything that you would hope for out in a summer movie can be found here: Well made action, many colorful and quirky characters, comedy that usually hits the proper notes and a good mix of drama and suspense to make a complete film (even if the story is simple).

As a giant monster movie fan, I have the utmost respect for Guillermo del Toro and his entire cast and crew for doing such a great job on this film. I can tell that del Toro cares deeply for monster movies, and it really comes through in “Pacific Rim.” The love and detail that he puts into his monsters and world reminds me of Ishiro Honda’s daikaiju films, and I always appreciate that.

Final Grade: B+

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