Sunday, January 19, 2014

Movie Review: Pacific Rim

I've been dying to see this film ever since it came out but, due to an error in communications on my part, I didn't have a chance to watch it over the summer and was holding off until I could get over to redbox or such. And then one week I jokingly said "oh maybe the film that [my step-sister] is bringing this week is Pacific Rim!" and I was right! Clearly I need to tempt fate more often, this is so much easier than putting my name on the holds list in the library, as far down as I am for some of the 2013 films currently I'm not sure I'll have a chance to see them before the next New Years.

Pacific Rim

One day the Earth received a grim warning that we are not alone in the universe as it came under a attack by kaiju (monsters) from another world, dinosaur like creatures that could fight off anything thrown at them. In desperation the world came together and created monsters of their own, giant jeagers (mechs) which gave humanity a fighting chance again. But people got tired of the costs and started scrapping the program and building a giant wall to cut off the now-dangerous ocean instead. There are still some people who believe in the program though, those who think that it's their best and now last chance to end this war forever and are gathering up all the pilots they have left for this final assault on the pacific.

After seeing the film I bristled a little bit at hearing my step-dad saying that it felt like every other World War II movie he had ever seen and found it rather boring because of that. The next day I stumbled across summaries of a few war films on wikipedia and understood what he was saying, the plot structure and pay-off were rather similar (which struck me as weird, Pacific Rim is about ending a war but none of these movies were, just winning a battle). But as someone who comes from a completely different background, of mecha and super robot anime this was both pretty fun and pretty different and, after mentioning this to my mom, she noted that I might be part of that target audience for this movie. The movie takes a lot of the tropes I'm used to and does it differently, there are no bright eyed teenagers or peppy support characters here, just adults who have already lost a lot and are driven to not lose anymore. Plus the movie even starts in a different place, a lot of mecha series start when a war has just broken out and humanity (magically) happens to have some strange, new, untested technology to fight against this, even in the very beginning of the film before the timeskip this fight has been going on for several years and the characters feel tired of it in a way that you don't often see in most anime. Which isn't to say that no anime has had this tone or that every single one of them start at the beginning of their "war", going through the shows I've seen only about half of them have but that's still what made this fun for me, it took what I was used to and twisted it around just enough to make it new again. Heck, I would imagine that if I was even more familiar with super robot anime of the 70s or 80s I would have picked up on a few more references than I did in there (such as, I strongly suspect that some of the crazier names, like Stacker Pentacost, are references to how crazy some of the names in say Gundam get but I can't be sure), although I must raise my eyebrows at the statement that Guillermo Del Toro has never seen Neon Genesis Evagelion since there were a few shots that looked heavily inspired by it (shots which I can't think of other shows having also used, ie no other way he could have seen them).

Continuing with the anime comparisons, I had forgotten how nice it is to see a film with a full, Hollywood sized budget for the special effects. Everything looked great here, even if the movie was a bit too obvious on the visual symbolism at times. I had previously seen some videos on how the real world sets were made and found this one on the designing of the Jeagers afterwards and I thought they did a great job at making everything real (as it's going to get considering the subject matter that is). Finally, what I easily enjoyed most about the film was the relationship between Raleigh, a pilot brought out of retirement, and his new partner Mako and I know I'm not alone on this. They don't have a romantic relationship, although it could certainly turn out that way in the future, but the film did a great job at convincing me that these are truly two people whose minds work alike and it was great to see a male character for once not go through the usual "I can't work with her/she can't take the pressure" and instead treat her as an equal from their first meeting. Sadly Mako is just about the only woman in the film, the only other I can remember seeing on screen for any length of time is one of the Russian pilots, but she was a female character who felt like a real, fleshed out person full of determinedness, revenge, and yet not mean or bad, instead just the kind of person who you would expect to be living in this strange, bitter world.

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