Pacific Rim

July 15, 2013

Well, here it is, possibly the most anticipated geek film of the year.  Even more than Star Trek, because with Star Trek we knew what we were getting.  With this?  All we could do was hope.

And I’m finding it really hard to talk about because I can’t separate the movie from my intense nostalgia for this kind of thing.  I have no idea what this thing looks like to someone who hasn’t been waiting for a good-looking live-action mecha anime-style movie for pretty much her whole life.  Because I have, and it’s beautiful.

The thing I really appreciated about Pacific Rim was the industrial weight of it.  Water sheeting off steel as Gipsy Danger strides off into the rain.  Sparks flying, gears turning, pistons pumping, being able to see it all work because the movie slows down enough to let us.  Human beings clearly built these things, and you can see the bolts and welds.  Jaegers require a small city of workers to maintain them.  They take muscle to operate, a fleet of helicopters to transport.  They are heavy and difficult, which makes it that much more impressive when one of them takes off at a run.  The scale is consistent, and yet I was always surprised at how big they are, looking up at them, or across at them from the top of an industrial scaffold.

This is something the anime versions could never express.  Anime mecha are beautiful, but they’re painted and weightless.  Which means this movie is better than its source material.  And part of me can’t believe I just wrote that.

Okay, time to shake it off and get serious.  First off, the good:  the 3D was fantastic — completely non-intrusive, if that makes sense.  I forgot I was watching 3D, because it didn’t do any of that fakey “ooooh, you’re watching 3D” sight gag crap.  The 3D added depth, and that was it — it helped increase the sense of scale and weight to the mecha and kaiju.  This was a very deep world.  Really, I loved the worldbuilding.  The pilot culture, the world experiencing slow apocalypse.  If I lived in this world (not that I want to live in a world being overrun by interdimensional kaiju) I would so be a Jaeger groupie.  The film’s best action set pieces are not in in the trailers.  There’s one in particular that made my Voltron fangirl heart soar.  To say more would spoil it.

Second, this is a really good example of a story that’s filled with cliche characters and plot points — the grizzled veteran commander, the hero with a traumatic past, the untried rookie, the hotshot with the chip on his shoulder, the crazy scientist — and yet was done cleanly, competently, and engagingly.  This is a really familiar, standard anime story — and that’s a good thing.  Keep it simple so we have time for a story and to see beautiful mecha waging destruction on monsters.  Well done.  And some of it was very well done indeed:  Mako Mori’s flashback, as observed by Raleigh, is probably one of the most striking, beautiful sequences I’ve ever seen in a genre film, ever.  This was indeed a movie by the director of Pan’s Labyrinth.

Third, this is also a really good example of a movie that could have been made more inclusive by simply swapping out the gender of one of the existing characters.  My pick would be the ops controller or the British mad scientist (if you think that’s crazy, picture this for a sec:  an Amy Farrah Fowler type character in this kind of movie.  Done swooning yet?).  None of those secondary characters needed to be male for the story to work.  Seriously, it isn’t about adding extra women characters — it’s about not automatically defaulting to male.  (This was my same complaint with Inception.)  Then maybe I wouldn’t be sitting there at the end thinking, “Wow, that was a very male movie.”  At least we had a veteran woman pilot on the Russian team — that made me happy.

Before going into it, I thought this would either be brilliant, and I’d have nothing to say about it, or terrible, and I’d also have nothing to say.  Clearly, I had something to say about it, so it might not have been absolutely perfect — but it really is the live-action anime I’ve been wanting pretty much my whole life and, I think I need to see it again.


10 Responses to “Pacific Rim”

  1. sef Says:

    My thoughts: it was the best giant mecha vs godzilla movie I’ve seen all year.

    Pretty much all of the scenes not involving giant mechas vs godzillas … had problems. Inconsistent writing, mostly, including internal consistency issues.

    Ron Perlman owned this movie.

    Too many movie/other genre references for me to keep track of.

    I have some other thoughts, but they’re more spoilery. But… I enjoyed all of the giant mechas vs godzillas scenes. And that was really the only part that mattered.

  2. wiredwizard Says:

    I went in to PR unsure about what I was getting into & loved it. I’ve been fond of Giant Mecha stories since I was a little kid paging though issues of Shogun Warriors but wasn’t sure they could pull it off decently in Live Action having seen previous attempts like Robot Jox.

    I shudder to think what Asylum did w/ it with their version _Atlantic Rim_…

  3. Now here’s hoping Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures deliver the goods again with their Godzilla remake next summer.

  4. brendab Says:

    My only issue with this movie was the Asian woman. I do not read Anime so perhaps it is a requirement but her character annoyed me no end. Female, no problem, cliched, can’t act, big problem. The eight year old actress was great though. Everything else was soooo cool. Loved Idris Elba and the British doctor guy. Gotta say though, Independence Day was in my head for the entire movie, but that was okay, Reptar vs Godzilla is still so great.

  5. RobertL Says:

    My only complaint is that we didn’t get enough of the Russian Team.

    A better first fight sequence would have had Gypsy Danger running backup for the Russians and Chinese. If you can not risk the Aussies then don’t deploy them. Drop the problem team into the fire and see if they survive. If they do great, if not they wouldn’t have been any use in the final mission. My sequence for that fight would have been the Chinese and Russians take on one while Gypsy Danger delays the second. Then have a dramatic turn around when the problem children take theirs out and go to the rescue.

    I can see a sequel that leads to Godzilla movies. The bio weapon guys decide to make their own Cat 5 as a replacement of the Jeagers. When Godzilla gets away from the immoral science guy start the Godzilla Vs Rodan music.

  6. We sure have come a long way since Robot Jox, huh?

  7. Carrie V. Says:

    Ah, Robot Jox. We tell stories of Robot Jox to scare the little children. “That’s not real!” they say. “Oh yes, yes it was. And my dears, you are very, very lucky to have escaped those dark times…”

  8. RobertL Says:

    Robot Jox *Shudder!*

  9. Jakk Says:

    I am glad I read your review. All the other reviews were pretty negative about the movie and I almost did not go. After reading yours, I took a chance and saw it and liked it a lot. I totally agree with your review, and it really did speak to me about my love of classic giant robot/monsters. And Robot Jox was worth seeing once, back in late 80’s. And forgotten quickly.

    Thank you, Carrie. I almost missed what turned out to be a perfect birthday gift.

  10. David Bowles Says:

    Maybe I’m being too nick picky, but I really wanted there to be more Kaiju and more Jaegers. The concept of stopping the program to build a wall is utterly insane, even for a movie like this.

    I thought the action would have been more compelling if the Jaegers had more ranged weapons and engaged 80% of the Kaiju at range and did hand to hand as a last resort when they were being over run. Punching a bony creature the size of a mountain should be plan E not plan A. Given the efficacy of a sword vs the Kaiju, something like a 1m gatling gun mounted on a Jaeger would shred them at range.

    Additionally, the space cannon from Final Fantasy: Spirits within would have been a good idea as well. Just to make the war against the Kaiju feel more comprehensive. And then the final battle could have been dozens of Jaegers fighting through dozens of Kaiju to get to the rift.

    Hollywood people really lack understanding of economies of scale. For example, in Star Wars, they should have at least mentioned that the Empire had thousands or even millions of war ships. That’s what it would take to run a galactic empire. You don’t have to put them on the screen, just mention them as something that exists. And other rebels are keeping them busy.

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