Hey there, people!
Back in April of last year, at THE AVENGERS press screening, Harry told me he’d seen a small portion of ILM’s PACIFIC RIM test footage and proclaimed, "It’ll be this generation's STAR WARS.”
Honestly, at first I thought I was like "Yeah, okay, whatever you say Harry,” thinking that the masses had already decreed AVATAR to be our generation's ‘definitive wow movie.‘ I've never been so happy to be so wrong. Harry was absolutely right.
Now, like the Kaijus, I...The Enemy...have awoken from a long absence from AICN to talk to you about why Guillermo del Toro's new motion picture is the best major film studio film released this summer, and potentially for the whole of 2013.
Sure, we've had some really good films so far- IRON MAN 3 and STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS - and some ‘not so good’ movies like WORLD WAR Z, MAN OF STEEL, and THE LONE RANGER. But if one were to take the best characteristics of all the films mentioned above and combine them, the result would not even come close to suggesting the awesomeness that is PACIFIC RIM.
Not even close.
For those who don’t know what PACIFIC RIM is about, it's pretty simple (but deceptively so). In very near near future, beasts known as Kaiju start to appear from a dimentional rift in the Pacific Ocean. They destroy our cities and days of massive military effort (and exceedingly high causality rates) are required to take out just one of the beasts. When these attacks become more frequent, the world comes together to build the Jaegers - giant robots requiring multiple pilots (whose minds are connected to each other to control the machines as one being). In these skyscraping mechs, we stomp out together to fight the beasts before they wipe out mankind.
And here’s what it sounds like when they do...
There is, however, much more to the movie than this description suggests - much more breadth of concept and character work. I’m leaving out many details to preserve your joy of discovery.
In some ways, PACIFIC RIM is the hot sister to1998's GODZILLA. Everything that was wrong with Roland Emmerich's flick (and there was a lot) is made good on (and presented more smartly) here, then amplified by at least 30 times. Or maybe 50. Or maybe more.
For skeptics who are screaming that this is a live-action rip off of NEON GENESIS EVANGELION? You need to stop thinking that now. Yes, it might be easy to compare giant robots beating the fuck out of city-killing monsters from another place...and pilots being neurologically linked to together might also raise eyebrows. But as someone who has seen the whole of EVANGELION twice (along with the multiple movies), it never crossed my mind once that I was watching ‘an Americanized NGE.’ One of my friends had the perfect analogy to sum up RIM’s relation to NGE, "It's live-action anime, ever down to the costumes and hairstyles."
Indeed, the biggest shortcoming of PACIFIC RIM has nothing to do with the film itself: I take great exception with its advertising. The film has not been sold as the gargantuan epic that it is - or as the intensely personal journey that it is. Promos are focusing on little beyond the SmackDown of Titans. There’s no sense of the movie’s humanity in RIM’s promos, or of the vivid, broader universe this film realizes so wonderfully. Which undersells, and creates a dangerously false impression about, the movie on the whole. Moments in this film evoke LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in scope - it's that large. PACIFIC RIM is simply (fucking) gigantic in scale. Between the enormous environments of the Shatterdome (the main hub of all the Jaegers), or the fist fights against Kaiju in cities and stormy oceans, or the nature of settings in which certain Bot/Beast conflicts take place, you truly haven't gotten a good sense that RIM is something remarkable from either trailers and TV spots. Not good when the point of these promos is to SELL TICKETS. Suffice to say, just go into the theatre forgetting you ever laid eyes on the last 30-45 minutes of MAN OF STEEL or Marvel's THE AVENGERS. RIM knocks those two aside by about twenty minutes in.
A special shoutout to ILM is in order, whose effects work here is truly industrious and magical (see what I did there?) Their efforts throughout set a critical aesthetic for the film - including numerous (complicated) water effects (rains, oceans, etc.) Check out 3D effects of rain hitting the camera lens, by the way. Very subtle - but adding greatly to immersion in the RIM’s ‘world.’
The design of Kaijus and Jaegers offer a distinctive look that is unique to cinema and often unlike anything I’ve seen in my years of moviegoing. The amount of detail extended to the creation of every little thing in this film is wondrous, and new standards are set by the film’s virtual artists from RIM’s earliest moments. It’s crazy to see how much ‘bang for your buck’ the movie has - knowing it was made for around $180 million, and seeing how much wasted cash was used for THE LONE RANGER (which was made for $215-ish million and resulted in a product which is neither as astonishing or grand).
Though I am by no means an advocate of 3D presentations (I find they do very little to enhance a movie - and if a film sucks, it still sucks with or without 3D, so why do you want a film to stick its suck right into your face?) RIM presents a very rare instance in which seeing a title in IMAX 3D benefits the movie hugely. I can not emphasize this enough: see PACIFIC RIM IN IMAX. Not because images will pop out at you more, but the large format 3D truly accentuates RIM’s epic scope.
Throughout the movie, I couldn't help but giggle like a little kid when there was a knock-out blow to a Kaiju ...or have a big, stupid smile seeing multiple Jaegers onscreen at one time. I was simply taken into another world. And though it sounds cheesy and cliché, I felt a connection with this movie I haven't felt since 'TOY STORY 3. Growing up as kid, I vividly remember a number of Japanese monster movies, specifically a majority of the GODZILLA series I loved to watch with my dad (Merrick). Giant creatures destroying whole cites...and viewing RIM with my father next to me brought me back to those late nights as a four and five year-old, seeing the same kinds of films.
A few weeks ago I caught of 35mm showing of the GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH and it was fun (and a badass print). Alas, after seeing what is done in RIM and lcomparing it to earlier Kaiju titles, it may be really difficult to bring one’s self to go back to the beloved old stuff. Granted, that mid to late 1900's material is what drove and spirited this movie, but RIM is executed so well and so richly and with so much heart, it may be impossible for many to shift backwards to those simpler, clunkier days. A sad byproduct to be sure, but if one has to diminish something special, at least it’s for something like this...something so utterly... right.
There are many moments of uneasy peril in PACIFIC RIM, sequences of genuine uncertainty regarding how the threats on screen might pan out. The film’s effective ensemble cast help to drive these points forward even more. I've read several reviews from other outlets bashing the acting from RIM’s cast, but I respectfully disagree. Are these Oscar caliber performances? No. But if you were to compare it something like say WHITE HOUSE DOWN or AFTER EARTH, one should be quite content with everybody's showing herein.
When Harry was introducing the film at the Sunday night screening, he discussed how Guillermo del Toro wanted to cast actors and actresses who aren't well known (minus Charlie Day and Idris Elba) - hoping that this movie would get them out there to be known. The caparison used by Harry was STAR WARS' Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher - who were relatively unknown actors in 1977, yet now they're synonymous with the their characters and the franchise as a whole. The same concept could work for the performers in PACIFIC RIM - with names like Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi - once the movie is fully released. There is a certain Luke and Leia quality to their interaction in this film, by the way. Minus the nasty abusive, narcissistic father aspect.
Idris Elba is, well, Idris Elba. Need I say more?
Ron Perlman is, well, Ron Perlman.
The infamous voice of PORTAL's 'GLaDOS,' Ellen McLain, is instantly recognizable here - even while the voice itself is in a slightly lower register. Still, her presence ads an awesome touch to the mechanical, futuristic aspect of PACIFIC RIM, and is a fun shout-out (whether intentional or not) to hardcore gamers.
Though I am not a fan of the comedic style of IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA, Charlie Day brings a different kind of humorous element to RIM - one that is appropriate for both his character, and the movie as whole.
Interestingly, the Jaegers and the Kaiju are presented as characters of their own here. For instance, if you’ve noticed in the posters and trailers, the Russian Jaeger 'Cherno Alpha,' has an evocative smoke stack design. The American...
Jeagers seem to follow the culture from where the originate. If you haven't dopne so yet, watch THIS featurette.
GdT talks about how the Kaiju in the are based on different animals (which presumably makes them more accessible and lends them a great truth on screen). Again, this comes back to attention to detail mentioned above...making for s spectacle which is much better.
Up until now, the live-action TRANSFORMERS movies have been the epitome of stupid ass robot action. In RIM, action is handled on a whole different level. Between Guillermo Navarro's sexy 'n slick cinematography - and with Peter Amundson and John Gilroy's cohesive, no-flab editing - PACIFIC RIM is a smoothly oiled machine featuring enormous action sequences that are actually comprehensible(!?!?), beautiful to look at, and a joy to behold. The flow of the movie has a nice balance between action, getting to know our heroes, and over-all story movement. As mentioned above, there is actually a universe in RIM that is more than just giant robots fighting monsters (think in terms of STAR WARS of the TERMINATOR in terms of richness of conception). Overall, there is no fat or non-needed material here, even with a 131 minute runtime. There is one protracted gag which MIGHT be construed as unnecessary (involving Perlman and and a creature) - but...think SEQUEL...and suddenly the sequence makes much more sense.
As a whole, PACIFIC RIM has all the makings of a classic summer Hollywood blockbuster. This is as if Guillermo del Toro had a checklist of what to have and what not to have in a big budget movie, and checked it twice (he could make a pretty good Santa Clause, actually). It's great for young kids (my 6 year old brother won’t stop talkie b about it), tremendously propulsive for grown ups and geeks alike, and has a wickedly high repeated viewing factor. I’m dying to see this again, and would be crushed if we don’t get more PACIFIC RIM films in the future.
And stay for the end credits, by the way. At least until the song starts...
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