Friday, August 16, 2013

Film review of Pacific Rim

A lot of comparisons (and contrasts) have already been drawn between Neon Genesis Evangelion and summer "Gundam vs Godzilla" flick Pacific Rim. I do wonder if this is the closest we will come to seeing an NGE-like film in our lifetimes - the plot and backstory of NGE is far too complex for a popular action film.

The human drama was about as cheesy as would be expected of the genre, with tropes and archetypes galore. There's a convenient plot device of the world-saving war machine needing cooperative piloting by two people, setting the stage for inter-protagonist tension. There's a bumbling scientist duo, people with dead relative trauma and daddy issues, a tough general dude in need of a chill pill, a cocky superstar warrior in need of humbling, etc. There's even what appears to be a tribute to Samuel L Jackson's death in an infamous creature feature.

The rest of it, however, was spectacular. A lot of the film is set in urban coastal East Asia, which is great for battles in colorful cities and beautiful sea locations. It's also closer to home for the Japanese origins of both of the film's constituent genres. I really liked how the mecha - called jaegers in the film - were designed and implemented. These things were so huge they could wade around littoral waters like they were in paddling pools. As were their opponents, the kaiju - extra-dimensional monsters invading Earth. Each kaiju and jaeger had distinctive looks and unique characteristics (which I'm sure will be great for toy lines), from extra arms and specialized weapons to claw tails and bio-EMP.

Guillermo del Toro was a good choice for this film, as he is great with choosing the right imagery - a sort of Mexican Tarsem Singh. The battles take place at night, so the urban glow, jaeger feature lighting and kaiju bio-luminescence really come through for a great overall look. Both jaeger and kaiju tower over most buildings, inspiring awe in the viewer, and their mechanical and biological aspects of each were well-executed. The battles featured little use of ranged weapons, except as finishing moves; they would rapidly descend into what can basically be described as massively super-scaled epic bar brawls (justifying the jaegers' otherwise-unnecessary humanoid forms), complete with the opponents wrestling, butting, pummeling, and using available objects to bludgeon and hack at one another. Which is simply glorious.

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