Just Watched: Pacific Rim

Forgive me; I’m about to babble at you.

What do I think of the plot and treatment?

Let’s face it: while the movie relies heavily on a great action movie idea – humanity fighting to survive a series of attacks from Kaiju, giant monsters that come out from the cracks at the bottom of the largest ocean on the planet, by using Jaeger, REALLY COOL GIANT ROBOTS – you can’t say it’s really new. In fact, if you grew up watching lots of movies and TV, you can pretty much predict what’s going to happen in this film. The robots fighting huge creatures thing has been used in various Japanese television shows since the last century, the whole “you need to know how to move together” is eerily reminiscent of that one episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion, and (according to my boyfriend) there’s one scene that really reminded him of a scene in Gundam 00. And you basically know how each person is going to react.

That’s okay, though, because del Toro made no secret of the fact that this is a freaking tribute to various genres in geeky Japanese media. And, in my opinion, he did an excellent job of taking those tropes and giving them a more International feel (mainly by making a point about “natural disasters” making us all humans and not just Americans, Chinese, Russians, Australians, and whatnot). There’s a strange sort of comfort in the fact that they can be somewhat interchangeable too, because nobody seems to be saying anything like that “he’s like that because ASIAN” or “clearly token black dude”. They’re all just trying to kill Kaiju.

The majority of the cast is STILL made up of white folk, I have to admit that. But at least they’re not all Americans and there are some REALLY kick-ass characters of other races. Yes, I’m talking about those brothers who pilot that three-armed Jaeger (I wish there were more scenes with them) AS WELL AS Mako Mori, who is an extremely awesome female lead as far as I’m concerned. Sure, she could wipe the floor with you; that doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s a hard-ass, though. She’s…well the only words I can think of are “fragile” and “sweet”, but not necessarily to the detriment of her personal strength. As far as female characters go, I’d say she’s refreshingly complex in the context of a Hollywood action film even though she can still be considered a little one-note by all other standards.

You could almost say that her existence alone made the movie awesome (Image from IMDB)
You could almost say that her existence alone made the movie awesome (Image from IMDB)

Equally refreshing is Raleigh Beckett, who many might consider to be the main protagonist in this film based on the trailers (although I would argue that this is more of an ensemble thing than anything else). Raleigh quit piloting Jaeger after the death of his brother/former partner during a Kaiju attack, which is typical angsty back story that would have made someone in another context pretty stereotypical. But in this movie, the incident leads him to have the same combination of strength and fragility that Mako has, which makes their new partnership as dangerous as it is effective; that’s one way of making the veteran-rookie tandem interesting. Am I slightly bothered by the fact that they put two people with PTSD together? Why yes, yes I am. But did it get in the way of the movie? Not really. Raleigh and Mako stayed true to character and reacted to situations based on their experiences within the world they live in. It’s part of what made the narrative work for me. It didn’t need depth and complexity. It just needed to work okay, and it did.

And you guys know how I feel about narrative logic, especially when it comes to people doing what they do. I like the ‘splainin and I think this movie did just enough to make the characters believable without sacrificing the pace necessary to make this a true action movie (the pace being “generally fast with no time for real plot/character development”).

But those two characters are not the focus of this film, not really. The focus is on the last-ditch effort of a group of people to take down their gigantic enemies once and for all, and how different character (stereo)types approach it. Dr. Geiszler, a scientist whose desire to understand the Kaiju leads him to take extreme measures – despite his own weaknesses – eventually leads him and his equally brilliant if uptight colleague Gottlieb to discover a crucial piece of information that ultimately made their desperate bid for ending Kaiju attacks once and for all successful. It’s all a stretch, but I still love those two.

I guess I should admit at this point that the whole “scientist figures out how to beat alien enemy” thing also reminded me of Independence Day. Which is a GOOD THING, considering the fact that I love that movie despite the all the silly pseudo-science there (which is ALSO present in Pacific Rim). In any case, I still think that the result was awesome.

Match all this with del Toro’s impeccable use of visuals, music, and editing – don’t get me started on how awesome the giants look – and you’ve got a truly beautiful film that brought manly tears to my eyes despite the fact that I am clearly not a man and that the movie has its flaws. It’s sheer FUN, and many of the details make it easy for viewers to suspend their disbelief. I’d throw more money at it if I can. Which I can’t. Which is a shame.

What do you think?

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