Saturday, July 13, 2013

Pacific Rim - Movie Review

Since the first time I saw the very first trailer for Pacific Rim, I have been waiting not so patiently for its arrival. Seriously, this is giant robots fighting giant alien monsters in a movie directed by Guillermo del Toro and I had no doubt in my mind this would be nothing less than a glorious display of 3D awesomeness. Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, Charlie Day, and Rinko Kikuchi are also in the movie because I guess there needs to be some people in it, too.

In a world where gigantic alien monsters have begun a relentless campaign to wipe out the population of Earth, the human race has been forced to come together and find a way to survive. While conventional weapons had little to no effect on the beasts known as Kaiju, our combined military forces have come up with a new weapon known as Jaegers to level the playing field. These huge war machines are driven by pairs of human Jaeger pilots who collectively "drift" their minds into the controls. This makes for maximum efficiency when taking down toxic beasts that are twice their size and, for a while, it works.

Unfortunately, the other worldly beasts keep coming up from an underwater portal and it seems like each one gets bigger and stronger than the last. Eventually, the Kaiju begin to defeat the Jaegers in battle after battle and the United Nations council must come up with another way to save the planet. Meanwhile, former Jaeger pilot Raleigh Becket (Hunnam) has been brought back in by Stacker Pentecost (Elba), the leader of the Jaeger program, to help form a squad of pilots who will attempt a mission that could be Earth's last hope of survival.

Like I was saying earlier, I absolutely knew from day one that I would love this movie, it was just a matter of how much. I figured there's no way the one and only Guillermo del Toro would put out a bad product and especially dealing with something as awesome as robots and monsters duking it out all over the planet. We are finally at a point technologically where a movie like this can be made without any constraints as far as what can and can't be put on the screen. Seriously, magicians at Industrial Light and Magic continue to produce stunning special effects shots that seem to raise the bar every time a movie they have had a hand in comes out and this was certainly no exception.

While the big effects shots look absolutely amazing, del Toro wanted any shot involving humans to look just as clean and went the route of using as many practical effects and physical sets as possible. Along with the director's experienced hand in bringing this type of movie to life, there was also the hype imaginative little boy inside his head that always wanted to make a big, Hollywood blockbuster style movie that drew from the futuristic stylization of anime as well as the classic monsters like Godzilla and King Kong. You can definitely see the Eastern influence in the characters whether it be simple mannerisms and gestures like Rinko Kikuchi so brilliantly brought to the heroine Mako Mori, or the at times over the top comedy of the scientist duo played by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman. Even Ron Perlman, who has worked with del Toro in the past in the Hellboy movies, gets to go all out as a flamboyant black market entrepreneur who deals in Kaiju body parts.

One thing you will notice right off the bat is how there really isn't much in the way of in depth character development for any of the men and women in this movie. The audience learns who they are, what their role is, and what they need to do to save the day without spending half the movie on origin stories. Even so, I wish this movie could have had a longer running time (Yes, I know its already clocking in at 132 minutes!), or even been split into two movies as there is just so much going on it does feel a little bit rushed here and there.

On the flip side of that, it's actually quite refreshing to have a single movie tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end without being just a setup for future installments. Sure, Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures are already talking to del Toro about developing a sequel, but even if that never takes place, this movie will always be able to stand alone without loose ends hanging all over the place.

As I begin to wrap up my thoughts on this movie, I keep thinking back to several key moments that are just flat out jaw dropping and will make you want to stand up and cheer for the amazing stuff you are seeing play out on the screen. Then you add in a beautifully rendered 3D transfer that was sourced from 100% digital footage shot with Red Epic cameras which are considered to be the gold standard for filmmakers and you have a visual feast that demands more than one viewing to take it all in. The color pallette is very saturated and bold even during the big action packed fight scenes which, for some reason, primarily take place at night. Maybe Kaiju are nocturnal predators or something.

I imagine there is going to be a split in audience reaction with some people finding it to be a rather generic popcorn movie with not much of an emotional punch and then there will be the fanboys and fangirls who will be more than happy with the visual feast that del Toro and company has created. Personally, I loved the movie and plan on seeing it a few times before it leaves the theaters and then will start the countdown clock for the home video release. Even with a few flaws here and there, it still lived up to my lofty expectations that had been built up over nearly a year's worth of trailers, video clips, images, interviews, and other pre release propaganda. Bottom line: Pacific Rim is a movie you absolutely must go see on the biggest screen you can possibly find.

Check out my other Pacific Rim posts:
Pacific Rim: IMAX or Cinerama?
Pacific Rim Posters, Banners, and Trailers
Pacific Rim is Coming!

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